Email Deliverability

Ensuring Fundraising Email Deliverability: Updating your DNS Record

Email deliverability issues always tend to arise at the worst possible time: just before a big announcement, the launch of a campaign, or the start of a high-volume period. For our client, Herbalife Nutrition Foundation (HNF), this problem arose in mid-October, just as we were about to begin the primary phase of our 2020 year-end campaign, which focused on engaging and cultivating the email file in advance of traditional fundraising asks. 

Emails over the course of a few weeks were simply not reaching inboxes, particularly for gmail users. Emails were being deployed through Luminate Online, so Blackbaud Support was our first stop to help determine the cause of why recent outbound was triggering spam filters. However, troubleshooting the problem involved managing HNF’s DNS records in close coordination with the organization’s internal IT/Web Technology team. 

To solve for the recent deliverability issues, we needed to access the DNS record of HNF’s domain through a domain name registrar. To complete the authentication process, the following was added to HNF’s TXT record for its SPF information: +include:outboundmail.convio.net. (Read more about how to complete the authentication process here.) 

After verification was complete, we updated the corresponding Sender Profile in Luminate so that all emails we sent from Luminate Online moving forward came from the newly authenticated domain, @herbalifenutritionfoundation.org

Luminate Online has a separate reply management function, so we were able to maintain a previously established reply-to-email address/domain that had already been in use without impacting overall email deliverability. It’s important to note that the sender format or email address of the sender and reply to emails do not need to match. 

Once the domain was available for our use, we deployed test messages and sends across our team, reviewing overall performance across email clients before an audience-wide message was sent.

Depending on audience size, time constraints, etc., also consider sending the first email with a newly-authenticated domain in smaller batches, spaced out twice per day. Be sure to include known reviewers in each batch of sends to verify good UX. Also, continue to monitor your email KPIs once these changes have been implemented and testing is complete. 

Results: 

Before we updated the sender address, our most recent full file send featured an overall open rate of 9.78%. After domain authentication and verification was complete, our first audience-wide message yielded an open rate of 21.36%. We were thrilled with this immediate uptick, which brought us well above M+R’s fundraising email benchmark of 16.5% for 2020.