Dealing With Spam Filters

Dear E-Mail Diva,

My nonprofit has used e-mail blasts to alert our field about upcoming events and issues. Our e-mail service vendor now tells us most of our messages are getting caught in spam filters. Are e-blasts no longer an effective vehicles?

Frustrated in the Midwest

Dear Frustrated,

For hundreds of thousands of nonprofits and businesses worldwide, e-mail remains an effective (though frustrating) vehicle. Here are some options for restoring the viability of your program.

The shortcut to solving your problems is to engage a reputation service. to do a deliverability audit, to identify specific causes and solutions. For example, Habeas has a very low-cost option specifically for nonprofits. Go to to take advantage of this great service.

The next stop is your E-mail Service Provider (ESP). One of the primary reasons for using an ESP over a home-grown solution is its expertise in deliverability. Your provider should be helping you find a solution. Is there a particular Internet Service Provider (ISP) that is blocking your mail? If so, your ESP should work with them to discover the reason. In a previous column, J.F.Sullivan at Habeas described the process for fixing a blocking problem with Hotmail.



Are you on blacklists? MX Toolbox has diagnostic tools that will check 147 blacklists to see whether your mail server is considered a spam relay.

How did you build your list? Nonprofits I have worked with have been somewhat cavalier about getting permission from and controlling e-mail content and frequency to their lists. Sometimes it's best to start anew, asking everyone on your current list to re-opt in, via e-mail or postal mail. You'll lose a good percentage of your list, but you'll have a healthy, responsive base from which to rebuild. If you have been scrupulous about permission, send a postal mailing asking everyone to put you on their Safe Lists, and repeat this request in every e-mail.

It is highly unlikely, but possible, that the content of your e-mail is causing problems. In this article, you'll find links to calculate your spam score prior to sending an e-mail. (Note that using a reputation service starts you out with a large negative score. The lower your score, the less likely your e-mail will be considered spam by the filters.)

Finally, I have to mention that your site does not facilitate donations of time, resources or money. Whether you are looking for major contributors, individual donations or volunteers, you should make it easy for people to help.

Continue your important work, get help from the experts and

Good Luck!

The E-mail Diva

Send your questions or submit your e-mail for critique to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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