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How a Simple “Facelift” Can Give Your Open Rates a Lift



The Association of Fundraising Professionals, Washington DC Metro Area Chapter (AFP DC), needed a fresh look and strategy for their eNewsletter in order to communicate the value of membership to existing members and provide ways for them to become more engaged with the association. afpTheir email list contained only members, so open rates were already above industry standard, but they lacked the strategy to entice members to interact with their newsletter and drive them to the website.
PS Digital, Production Solutions’ Digital Services Division, provided front-end email and website analytics, redesigned AFP DC’s exist- ing eNewsletter template and implemented an email strategy including testing, teaser copy, calls to action, and regular reporting.


AFP DC’s eNewsletter the AFP DConnection is the primary communication to its membership group, but with a new newsletter committee in place, AFP DC had yet to develop a strategy for the content they wanted to highlight and did not have the time or resources to redesign the layout.

  • The original design contained three columns and included a lot of copy and graphics, so messaging was lost.
  • The newsletter design did not include AFP DC branding/logo.
  • Links were provided to the full articles located on AFP DC’s website; however there was no teaser copy to explain what each article was about.
  • There were very few calls to action and any that existed were hidden.
  • The content management system used to send the newsletter did provide click stats, so AFP DC was not able to track click-through rates and determine what content was most popular.

Before PS Digital, typical stats were:
Open Rate: 37% (well above industry standard)
Click-to-Send Rate (CTS): 9% (best estimate)
Click-to-Open Rate (CTO): 24% (best estimate) 


PS Digital consulted with AFP DC on its email newsletter and created a revised newsletter template along with formatting and content strategies based on best practices. We did a series of 3 monthly eNewsletters, which consisted of a redesign, testing send times, clarifying calls to action and adding copy to highlight their news content.
We also added Google Analytics tracking so we could determine what content AFP DC readers were most interested in, thus helping the newsletter committee strategize as to what type of content to include each month.
Strong open rates aside, the real challenge was finding ways to get AFP DC members to engage with the content within the newsletter and click through to the website for more information. Adding strong calls to action and compelling teaser copy was a large part of the strategy to get us there.
Over the three months of the campaign:

  • We made the following design changes:
    • Reduced columns from 3 to 2 to make the appearance cleaner and more mobile friendly.
    • Matched the colors and branding to the client website.
    • Streamlined the left rail to avoid confusion and clarify calls to action.
  • Developed and incorporated teaser copy with each article link to encourage readers to click through.
  • Created a testing strategy to narrow down the best time frame to send the newsletter.
  • We integrated the newsletter with Google Analytics, so we could track click through rates, attribute that to specific newsletter content and show each email’s contribution to AFP DC’s overall website traffic.

After PS Digital’s newsletter revision project, these were the results:

Open Rate: 40%
Click-to-Send Rate (CTR): 18%
Click-to-Open Rate (CTO): 48%

  •  We discovered the best time frame to send the eNewsletter to AFP DC members to encourage opens (CTO) and click-throughs (CTR).
  •  Clicks and traffic to newsletter articles on the website continued to increase each month after teaser copy was introduced to the body of the newsletter.
  •  Open Rates within 72 hours of sending the newsletter remained consistently high at an average of 40% – an increase of roughly 4% comparing June to March.
  • The final newsletter in the campaign (June) received an 18% CTR rate and a 48% CTO rate.
  • Based on June’s newsletter, PS Digital was able to increase the CTR by 100% and the CTO by 25%.


Experienced Production Solutions Client Services Managers, Digital Strategists, Marketing Analysts, Email Marketers, and Web Producers.
Strong AFP DC Fundraising and Marketing Experts and a dedicated Board.
Email Management Tool: CVENT
Web Analytics Tool: Google Analytics & CVENT
Graphic Design Tool: Adobe PhotoShop
To read more about this Solution Study, and to download a PDF please click below.


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