Re-engagement Emails: How to Win Back Inactive Subscribers with the DMS

October 12, 2022

Last month, we talked about cleaning up your email lists of inactive email subscribers.

We recommend you read through that blog before continuing here! In that blog, we defined inactive subscribers as people who haven’t opened or clicked through an email in the last 90 days. 

We also explained why cleaning up your lists is a great way to help ensure you’re only sending emails to those who want to receive them.

But, before deleting or removing inactive subscribers from email lists, successful charities try to win back inactive subscribers by sending them a re-engagement email first.


In this blog, you’ll learn about:


What is a Re-Engagement Email

Re-engagement emails are…
✔️ Emails you send specifically to inactive subscribers

The content in your re-engagement email should…
✔️ Spark the subscriber's interest in your charity once again

The objective of a re-engagement email is to…
✔️ Convert inactive subscribers into engaged subscribers

Because once upon a time, your subscriber subscribed to your emails because you had some exciting to offer!

It could’ve been your charity’s mission, impact, campaign, or anything in between that sparked their interest.

But somewhere in between, they stopped opening and clicking through your emails.

Maybe you sent too many emails or too few. Or perhaps you're asking for too many donations rather than providing relevant impact stories, updates, or other content.

Whatever the reason, sending re-engagement emails is an opportunity for your charity to win inactive subscribers back and get them excited about your critical mission again.

The Importance of Re-Engagement Emails

The average donor retention rate is only 43 percent. In other words, for every 100 people who donate to your organization, 57 of them won’t return.

The average donor retention rate is 43 percent

Now pair this with the fact that it costs ten times more to acquire a new donor than to retain them.

Whether the subscriber is a potential donor or donated in the past, you work hard to attract them to your cause. So wouldn’t you agree that charities should try their best to keep subscribers part of their ecosystem before writing them off?

Every subscriber you re-engage is a huge win because it could lead to a new or repeat donation.

But it’s not about re-engaging every inactive subscriber either. Simply identifying inactive subscribers who don’t click the calls to action (CTA) or open your re-engagement emails is a win – because you now know it’s safe to remove these inactive subscribers from your email lists.

The benefit is that once you confirm and remove these inactive subscribers, you’ll have a cleaner email list, leading to more accurate engagement metrics.

However, to help maximize the likelihood of an inactive subscriber re-engaging with an email, successful charities selectively time when and what type of re-engagement email to send.

That’s right, just because we defined an inactive subscriber as someone who hasn’t opened or clicked through an email in 90 days doesn’t mean you have to send a re-engagement email every 90 days.

Types of Re-Engagement Emails

To help inspire you to create your re-engagement emails, we curated some of our favourite examples below and the ideal time to send them.

The “Update My Info” Re-Engagement Email

One of the most common ways to re-engage inactive subscribers is to ask them to update or confirm their contact information.

This isn’t just an opportunity for your charity to confirm the contact’s email address either.

You’ll also be able to collect new mailing addresses, updated mobile or landline phone numbers, or even alternate email addresses! This flexibility is crucial for your charity because you’ll be able to reach your donors even more efficiently to share important information about your cause.

Postable does a phenomenal job with this.

Why this email works:

  • The Go to account settings and Refresh now CTA are concise, precise, and easy to understand
  • Addresses up to date for the holidays? is an engaging hook because readers of this email will want to be sure their holiday gifts and letters are delivered to the correct addresses
  • Copy is brief and to the point

When to send this email:

  • Before any type of big campaign
  • For example, you could send this re-engagement email before CanadaHelps’ Make It Monthly campaign in March
  • Simply update the copy with a more relevant hook such as Doing some spring inbox cleaning?
  • This helps ensure you have an updated contact list to maximize your reach during each campaign

In fact, with GivingTuesday and year-end giving right around the corner, now is an excellent time for charities to send this type of email to help ensure you deliver any communications to the right spot.

Why wouldn’t you want to have your contact’s up-to-date information before the biggest giving season of the year?

The “Are You Still Interested” Re-Engagement Email

Good things come to those who ask. So why not just ask your inactive subscribers if they’re still interested in your emails?

In the example below, there’s a clear CTA requesting the subscriber to click the link if they still want to receive emails.

Just make sure the link leads to a thank you or confirmation page so the user knows that they’re still subscribed to your emails!

Why this email works:

  • The KEEP ME POSTED! CTA is concise, precise, and easy to understand
  • Ghosting us? is an engaging hook because readers who are on the fence about unsubscribing will likely click on the CTA so they don’t miss out on future emails
  • Copy is brief and to the point

When to send this email:

  • These versatile re-engagement emails are not time-sensitive, so feel free to send them in between campaigns

The “Our Impact” Re-Engagement Email

These re-engagement emails are a great way to get contacts excited about your mission again.

On average, an office worker receives 121 emails daily – probably more if they’re fully remote.

That’s a lot! So it’s easy for your emails to get lost in the mix.

Sometimes people need a friendly nudge and reminder about the value your charity provides and why they signed up to begin with.

Road Scholar does a great job highlighting how each gift helps five critical areas in their organization.

Why this email works:

  • While this email is a touch on the longer side, readers are drawn to the five bullet points that tell the reader clearly how donations are allocated
  • The use of secondary CTA, Our Mission and Learn more at the bottom of the email, encourages readers to be a part of this organization’s ecosystem – even if they can’t donate at the time

When to send this email:

  • Before a big fundraising campaign such as GivingTuesday, your end-of-year push, or Make It Monthly
  • It’s an opportunity for your organization to share how, when, or where you allocate donations

The “Year in Review” Re-Engagement Email

This is a powerful re-engagement email to send to a segmented list of inactive subscribers who donated in the past year.

Like the “Our Impact” re-engagement email above, you're telling the reader the value your organization provides. But the “Year in Review” email targets donors who are also inactive subscribers.

With these types of emails, you can quickly highlight how each donation impacts the lives of others, communities or the world. 

You may inspire the reader by providing metrics to quantify how much your charity makes a difference. The reader may discover new ways of engaging with your charity through charity events or P2P fundraisers. Perhaps the reader learns about a new fund they’re interested in!

In CARE Australia’s example below, they do an outstanding job reminding donors how each gift helped the organization carry out their mission.

Why this email works:

  • Consistent use of their brand colours throughout the email
  • Generous use of images to draw attention
  • Listing aggregate stats to showcase how the significance of all the donations CARE Australia receives
  • Showing how many people in different regions benefited from CARE Australia
  • Conservative use of copy to help ensure this email is easy to skim
  • A call to action that encourages the user to learn more
  • A signature from a CARE team member, so the email feels more personal

When to send this email:

  • In the first few weeks of the new year to remind the donor the impact of their gift

Whatever you choose to include in this re-engagement email, it’s your opportunity to wow and encourage the reader to learn about new ways to get involved with your charity again. 

The “Survey” Email

Sometimes, charities may use multiple or a chain of emails when attempting to win back inactive subscribers.

One way charities achieve this is by sending a survey in their re-engagement emails to learn about their inactive subscribers’ preferences. 

In the following emails, charities send targeted communications based on the subscribers’ preferences to encourage continuous or increased engagement.

There is plenty of free survey software to choose from, such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey, that can help you get started in a few minutes.

But want to know a neat trick? Your survey doesn’t have to be a formal survey.

Take a look at this tourism email below. It does a great job making the survey not feel like one by including a different CTA for each area of interest. 

They can learn what the reader enjoys by tracking the CTA clicked. And with that information, they can keep the reader engaged by sending similar or related content in the future.

Why this email works:

  • The introductory line, “It’s been a while, but you’re always welcome back.” is a tasteful way to incorporate emotion in the email to connect with the reader
  • Generous use of images to draw attention
  • Different yet relevant copy in each CTA
  • Conservative use of copy to help ensure this email is easy to skim
  • Inclusion of user-generated social media content to advertise the beauty of the region plus encourages the reader to search for that hashtag online

When to send this email:

  • This is another versatile re-engagement email that isn’t time-sensitive so that you could send this in between campaigns as well
  • Or if you’ve recently published some articles, whitepapers, web pages, or other content, you could do a survey and push inactive subscribers towards that content depending on their preferences

How would charities use surveys like this? 

If your subscribers show interest in specific topics or impact areas, it’s not particularly helpful if the charity sends irrelevant emails unrelated to those things. 

In fact, you might be unaware that you’re annoying your subscribers by doing so and pushing them to hit the unsubscribe button.

To help mitigate this, charities could send a survey to inactive subscribers asking what type of content they’re interested in.

Let’s say you work for a bird conservation charity. In your charity’s survey, you could ask if they’re interested in birds in my region or the most endangered birds.

You would then only send emails about their interests to keep them engaged.

Send Re-Engagement Emails in 3 Steps:

Now you understand what a re-engagement email is, why it’s important, and some great examples to help build your own.

But how do you do it in the CanadaHelps Donor Management System (DMS)?

1. Create an inactive subscribers Smart Group

Smart groups are dynamic lists that save charities an incredible amount of time and effort. In a Smart Group, Contacts are automatically added or removed based on set criteria. Typically, you can set the criteria using the Advanced Search function in the Contacts tab.

Below, we’ll show you how to create an inactive subscribers Smart Group based on the following criteria:

  • Contacts who haven’t opened an email in the last 90 days; or
  • Contacts who haven’t clicked a link in an email in the last 90 days

Create the Smart Group in the DMS

2. Create a Re-Engagement Emails Campaign Group

Once you create a Smart Group, your next step is to create a Campaign Group. Doing this will help you save valuable time when searching for re-engagement emails you’ve sent in the past.

Create the Campaign Group in the DMS

3. Last, Create and Send a Bulk Email

With a Smart Group and a Campaign Group at your fingertips, you’re ready to send your first bulk re-engagement email with the DMS. Here’s how to do it.

Send a re-engagement email with the DMS

Not using the CanadaHelps DMS? Learn more and request a demo by clicking here.

Key Takeaways

Every successful charity understands the importance of re-engagement emails as part of its marketing and communications strategy. So before you start deleting inactive subscribers from your Contacts list, send a re-engagement email first to try to win them back.

Every inactive subscriber you convert is a potential new or repeat donor.

But remember, it’s not about trying to win back every inactive subscriber. Identifying and confirming inactive subscribers who are no longer interested in your mission is a win in itself. Removing these subscribers leads to cleaner email lists, more accurate metrics, and, most importantly, your emails go to the people who actually want them.

Ready to give re-engagement emails a shot? Try it now by signing into the DMS.

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