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You spend time, energy, and resources building your email list.

So when it comes time to send your latest email, you’re eager to send it to as many people as possible.

After all, why wouldn’t you want to reach the largest audience you can?

‘One-size-fits-all’ marketing weakens the relationships you’re trying to develop.

Our recent survey data showed that emails sent to 35 subscribers or less, suggesting more personalized content, saw average open rates of 55 percent. Meanwhile, campaigns sent to more than 7,500 subscribers averaged about a 14 percent open rate.

Segmenting your subscribers into different contact lists can help deliver more valuable and relevant content to your readers. Your subscribers will be less likely to tune you out because they know your information will be the perfect fit for them.

How can you start sending more tailored messages?

Boston-based nonprofit, Gifford Cat Shelter is a shining example of how segmenting your list can result in powerful and effective email marketing.

This animal shelter is aware that not everyone who signs up for their email list is looking for the same information. Their email list includes a wide variety of subscribers, such as volunteers, donors, adopters, rescuers, media contacts, and more, all of whom have different needs.

Gifford ensures that their readers are getting relevant information by sending focused email campaigns to segmented lists.

Here are three ways Gifford Cat Shelter uses list segmentation:

1. Weekly Volunteer Updates

The weekly volunteer update is sent every Friday at 8am. Sending consistently can help set expectations for your organization and create a great experience for your contacts. Each volunteer update contains new cat introductions, important information such as changes in policy, upcoming events that require staff, and the current number of adoptions for the year.

By using list segmentation, Gifford Cat Shelter ensures that this information is only sent to those who require it — the volunteers.

Below is an example of a volunteer update. While this email is longer than our best practices recommend, keep in mind Gifford is speaking to a highly engaged and targeted audience that is looking for this information.


In fact, as a result of segmentation, Gifford receives open rates way above their industry average. In this particular example, they received a 43 percent open rate and zero opt-outs! Had this email been sent to an untargeted email list, it’s unlikely they would receive such strong results.

Remember, every mailing you send should provide value to your audience. Your subscribers won’t be afraid to unsubscribe from email lists that are not valuable to them.

2. VIP Event Invitations

As a nonprofit, Gifford Cat Shelter relies on donations to keep the shelter running and their feline tenants happy, healthy, and fed. As a part of their donor program, 9 Lives Club, donors are sent VIP emails for supporter-specific events. These emails are only sent to the 9 Lives Club email list.

This example, an event invitation for a “Meow Mixer” last May, resulted in a whopping 70 percent open rate!

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3. General Newsletters

Sometimes you do want to send information to everyone on your list.

Gifford’s general newsletters are sent every month with the subject line, “What’s Mew At Gifford?” These emails contain information such as the shelter’s wish list, links to their blog, upcoming events/contests, adoption success stories, and more.

Since these emails are sent to all subscribers, it is important that there is a variety of content so every reader can find something relevant to them.

Sending a newsletter to a large list also helps the shelter understand what topics are most interesting to their subscribers.

For example, this particular newsletter received a 26 percent click-through rate. Through their Constant Contact account, Gifford can access email reports and tracking tools to see which links are being clicked the most, and who is clicking on them.


These metrics allow you to decide which links are working the best and to revise your email strategy accordingly. You can also use this information to send targeted follow-up emails to a select group of contacts that have shown an interest by engaging with a particular part of your newsletter.

How can segmentation work for your organization?

Gifford’s success with list segmentation comes from recognizing that their subscribers have different needs and interests

If your organization doesn’t have as clear-cut audience segments, consider these segmentation ideas:

  • Put your most loyal members on a separate VIP list, allowing you to reach out to them with a personalized acknowledgment of their support.
  • Make new lists for every event your nonprofit holds. That makes it easy to send targeted follow-up messages just to attendees of a particular event.
  • Find out your audience’s interests by sending an online survey or asking through your sign-up form.

The more you know about your subscribers the easier it is to organize your list and deliver information that’s valuable to them.