Wisdom Wednesdays: When do Others Email? It Doesn’t Matter!

by Jon Nelson

nelson-jon-2013-webYou’ve heard it all.  You should only send email blasts on Tuesdays between 1:00-2:00 p.m. when the great star is in the southern sky.  But then, someone else adamantly states that the ONLY time to send emails is on Thursday mid-mornings when the wind is out of the west.

There’s a good reason why you hear so many different “rules” about when to send emails to constituents.  The people giving these tips aren’t purposely trying to misguide you — I hope — but their research considering a wide range of organizations does just that.  It considers a wide range of organizations.

Even if the experts look at email open rates only for nonprofits, there still are so many different types of nonprofits.  A school, a social service agency, a church and a college likely have some overlap in their stakeholders, but for the most part they’re trying to reach different people.  The school might be trying to communicate with soccer moms and NASCAR dads, while a college will be focusing on getting annual fund support from 20-somethings who recently graduated.  The young professional isn’t checking emails at the same time as the parent who needs to get kids off to school.

What’s more, even the same types of organizations don’t always have the same types of constituents.  For example, different colleges draw different types of students for various reasons, so it would follow that their stakeholders could have different email habits, too.

So what does this mean?  It means that what others find about email open rates doesn’t matter.  It means that you need to figure out what works best for your organization, not other organizations, because each one is different.

I recently conducted research about email open rates for ALDE and was somewhat surprised by the results.  I found that not only what others have found doesn’t matter, but when we send doesn’t even matter all that much.


As you can see in the graphic, open rates are similar no matter which day the emails were are.  Nearly every one is above 31 percent.  Even more interesting, Tuesday, supposedly the best day to send emails according to many experts, is the second worst for us.  Friday, the day that emails supposedly go to die, is one of the best.

In case you’re wondering, what I did was count the frequency of each open rate range on a given day, assigned a score of 10-1 for each range, added the scores and then averaged them for each day.  Our email client offers a great amount of data but didn’t give me a very easy way to average the open rates themselves, so this worked best.

It didn’t take me long to run the numbers, and it gave us some very useful information.  We found that it doesn’t matter much when we send emails, although if I’m looking at scheduling two different emails and one is more important, I might send it on Monday instead of Tuesday, or Thursday instead of Wednesday.

You can do this, too!  Most mass email clients offer a wealth of valuable data.  Send emails at various times, look at the story the numbers are telling you and figure out what works best for your organization.  It doesn’t matter when others send, and it might even be the case that it doesn’t matter when you send.  Or it could be that scheduling emails on Tuesdays and Fridays really is best for reaching your stakeholders.  But you won’t know unless you determine what matters specifically for you.

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., is Associate Director for Communications with ALDE.  He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.