Boosting Your Association’s Email Open Rates with These Six Content Tips

Email is a powerful and effective tool for associations to reach out to their members with pertinent information. However, with the influx of emails that people receive every day, it can be challenging to get your association’s emails to stand out from the pack and be opened.

In this article, I’m sharing my best practices proven to increase email open rates.

Before we get into the tips that can help boost your association’s email open rates, it’s essential to understand what email open rates are and how they’re calculated. Email open rates refer to the percentage of people who open your association’s email out of the total number of recipients who received it.

To calculate your email open rate, divide the number of unique email opens by the total number of emails sent, then multiply by 100. For example, if your association sent 1,000 emails, and 250 people opened them, your email open rate would be 25%.

Best Practice #1: Craft effective subject lines

The subject line is the first thing that your association’s members will see when they receive your email, and it’s your chance to make a great first impression. A great subject line should be clear, concise, and should give the recipient a reason to open the email. Aim for a length of 50 characters or less, as longer subject lines can get cut off on mobile devices.

This is actually one of the areas I’ve found association marketing veer from standard advice on emails. Most marketers would tell you to avoid using generic subject lines like “May 2023: Acme Association News.” But I have seen that subject line perform better than a subject line that highlights the contents of your email like “Acme Events, Smart Home Webinar and a Note from the Executive Director.”

This is one of the first areas I work with clients on conducting A/B testing of their emails, particularly their newsletters. Does using action-oriented language and a sense of urgency encourage your members to open your email? By adding including the recipient’s name or other personal details in the subject line increase the likelihood of them being opened? A/B testing for several emails should provide some insights how your members lean.

Best Practice #2: Confirm your email layouts are responsive

icon: email on mobile deviceHubSpot states that 46 percent of all email opens now occur on mobile which means it’s crucial to ensure that your emails look good on most devices. However, almost 1 in 5 emails have not been optimized for mobile devices and the like.

Be sure your layout works well from desktop to smartphone to tablet. Optimize your design by using a responsive template that adapts to different screen sizes. Keep your content concise and scannable, with legible fonts and short paragraphs. Images should load quick and ensure there is alt text for accessibility.

Best Practice #3: Incorporate visuals

icon: red visualWith so many emails landing in our in-boxes daily, we have become very good at scanning. Visual content, such as images and videos, can be a powerful way to capture your association’s members’ attention and increase email open rates. Including eye-catching visuals can not only make your emails more memorable, they increase the likelihood of your members taking action.

Use high-quality images and videos that are optimized for email and mobile devices, that are consistent with your brand’s overall look and feel. Utilizing color and regular section icons to help break up content are other good ways improve readability.

Best Practice #4: Clear call-to-actions (CTA)

Green buttons receive higher click through ratesA clear call-to-action (CTA) is a crucial element in any email marketing campaign. A CTA is a button or link that encourages your members to take action, such as registering for an event or visiting your association’s website. Side note: studies show blue and green buttons get clicked the most!

To create an effective CTA, be clear and concise about what action you want your members to take. Use action-oriented language, such as “register now” or “continue reading,” to encourage your members to take action. Place your CTA prominently in your email and ensure that it stands out from the rest of your content.

Best Practice #5: Optimize email send times

Clock Icon: Optimize email send timesThe timing of your association’s emails can have a significant impact on your email open rates. Sending your emails at the right time can increase the likelihood of your members opening and engaging with your content.

This is another area I’ve seen a lot of improvement for clients simply by testing and tweaking their send times. Particularly with members worldwide, it’s important to try a variety of times and consider segmenting your list for optimal deliveries. Use data and analytics to track the performance of your emails and adjust your send times accordingly.

To determine the optimal send time for your association’s emails, consider your members’ habits and preferences. Try sending your emails early in the morning or during lunch breaks to determine what may be more effective. I have one previous association client that gets their best open rates when the newsletter is sent around 5pm on Fridays.

Best Practice #6: Schedule time monthly to analyze email performance

Finally, it’s essential to test and analyze the performance of your association’s emails regularly. A/B testing is a useful technique for testing different subject lines, visuals, and CTAs to determine what works best for your members.

While a high email open rate is an excellent indicator of engagement, it’s not the only metric that you should consider when measuring the effectiveness of your association’s email marketing campaign. You do not need to track everything – here’s what I typically track with clients:

  • Deliverability percentage
  • Time and date sent
  • Email open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • The URL that received the most clicks in the email along with its category (Association event vs 3rd party, Blog post, Media, etc.). This one helps from a member interest perspective.

Use this data to refine your email content strategy and improve your association’s email open rates over time.


Email communication is a crucial component of any association’s outreach strategy. It’s the easiest and most efficient way to keep members informed, engaged, and up-to-date on the latest news and events. By crafting compelling and relevant content, optimizing send times, and analyzing your email performance, you can increase your association’s email open rates and deliver more value to your members. Remember, effective email marketing is an ongoing process, so don’t be afraid to experiment and refine your strategy over time.

About Me

Hello, I'm Jeny. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing strategy, brand positioning, and content development, I collaborate with clients to develop strategies and action plans to streamline their marketing and achieve their goals.

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