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2 steps to improve your nonprofit's email deliverability

January 21, 2021
Two nonprofit professionals look at a laptop to review their email delivery strategy.

With GivingTuesday around the corner, your nonprofit organization is probably looking for the best ways to maximize your fundraising on a tight timeline. The use of email to promote your fundraiser and solicit donations is a major component of any successful campaign. However, a successful email campaign doesn’t end with crafting a message and sending it to your supporters.  

To generate quality results and secure donations from your email marketing, you’ll want to make sure you maintain high email deliverability so your message reaches the people who care about it. Email deliverability refers to your emails’ ability to reach subscribers’ inboxes (rather than landing in their spam folder, for example). This means auditing your email list to remove inactive, unengaged recipients and invalid email addresses. 

Another important, but often overlooked, step is to set up DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPK) email authentication with your email service provider. In this guide, we’ll explore what these forms of email authentication are and how they can improve your next campaign’s results.

What are these protocols? 


DKIM is a cryptographic form of email authentication. It uses “public key cryptography” to verify that an email message was sent from an authorized mail server. 

DKIM relies on senders “signing” the message in a way the receivers’ mailbox can verify. For your nonprofit, here is what this process involves:

  1. Identify the fields you want to include in your DKIM signature (e.g., address, body, subject line).
  2. Your email platform creates a unique hash string of letters and numbers that is encrypted with a key only you can access.
  3. The next time you email a newsletter or promote a fundraiser, the receiver’s mailbox validates the DKIM signatures and decrypts the hash string.

This measure helps secure your emails and prevent any data tampering, ensuring your message arrives safely to the supporter, untouched by anyone else. However, DKIM works best when paired with SPF.


SPF is an IP-based form of email authentication in which the sender of an email message is verified by the domain owner (in this case, your organization) and given authorization. The domain owner can identify which mail servers they’re able to send from with SPF protocols. This protocol is commonly used to block phishing emails.

To get started, you’ll need to create an SPF record, or a record added to Domain Name Servers (DNS) that indicates your email is from an authorized sender IP address (rather than a phishing campaign) to recipient email servers. Your SPF record helps improve your domain's reputation, protect it from cybercriminals using it for scams, and decrease the likelihood of spam filters blocking your domain from reaching supporters’ inboxes.  

Why are these protocols important?  

Inbox providers, such as Microsoft, filter emails without valid entries. This means that these messages will not appear in the receiver’s inbox. 

DKIM and SPF work to establish a public record to validate email messages so that these inbox providers can verify the legitimacy of senders. Think of this verification as a statement from your nonprofit saying “Expect to receive email from my organization from these email servers.” Because these processes help detect forgery and prevent spam, following these best practices can have a large impact on email deliverability by making it clear that your organization is trustworthy and authoritative.  

How can your nonprofit get started?  

Because the setup process for DKIM and SPF can get technical, the best way to navigate setup is by contacting your domain administrator and email provider. Both will work with you to provide step-by-step instructions and ensure that these features are enabled. 

Even if you don’t do anything else for GivingTuesday, make sure to set aside a few minutes to start setting up DKIM and SPF. These measures boost your email deliverability and ensure your appeals reach as many supporters as possible.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing