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If you don’t know about Gmail tabs then in a nutshell the concern is this.

All those beautifully crafted fundraising emails you send out to your donors with Gmail addresses will end up under a “Promotions tab”.

What the heck is the Promotions tab?

In May this year, Google introduced a new tabbed layout. If your donors use Gmail addresses then they can enable up to five tabs. They are Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. If enabled, Gmail automatically sorts all incoming messages into those tabs.

And the fear is that your fundraising emails will be less likely to be read once sorted into the Promotions tab.

Not necessarily.

(I knew about “that” Gmail tab and intended to write something about it for a while.

But then The Agitator beat me to it so I encourage you to read their post here. I’d also direct you to this very good post by Michael Linthorst at Econsultancy.)


Engagement level

First, I find it very interesting that email research firm Return Path says the number of read messages by “highly engaged” subscribers increased after introducing these tabs. These people will seek out and read your messages no matter where Gmail sends them to.

For “medium engaged” subscribers, their behaviour did not change significantly.

But read messages for “low engagement” subscribers dropped. Quite a lot.

So you’d really have to ask yourself whether you’re doing everything you can to keep YOUR donors engaged with your charity.

Not all Gmail users will be using tabs

Second, this change will only affect Gmail users reading their email on a device that supports tabs.

The good news is that many devices don’t yet support Gmail tabs. And they’re the ones your donors are likely to be using. Both iPhone and Android mail don’t support Gmail tabs (although Apple’s Gmail app does). Apparently 47% of all email opens worldwide now occur on a mobile device.

And even if your donor reads your email on a desktop, chances are they use an email client like Microsoft Outlook, which also doesn’t support tabs.

The bad news is  you can’t count on this situation continuing. As technology evolves and new software updates are released, Gmail tabs may become more widely used.

So you may well want to encourage your donors with Gmail addresses to move your messages to their Primary tab. Even if your donors are highly engaged with your charity, I assume you’d like your emails to be in their most important tab?

How to get onto the Primary tab

From The Agitator’s blog post, here are recommendations adapted from Steve MacLaughlin at Blackbaud.

1. Create an email targeted at your donors with Gmail addresses.

2. Tell them how much you love them and to ensure they still get your emails, they need to follow three easy steps in Gmail:

“Click on the Promotions Tab.”

“Drag and drop the message from your charity to the Primary Tab.”

“Then click ‘Yes’ for future messages from this address.”

3. Thank them for being great donors!

How many of your donors will actually do this? Ah well, that depends on how engaged you’ve got them!

And like The Agitator, I strongly advise you do this before your Christmas appeals really kick in. Like now.


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