What Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Means for Nonprofits

Delainey Lockett • Jul 19, 2021

On June 17, 2021, Apple announced their new Mail Privacy Protection, an adjustment to the Apple Mail application that can alter nonprofits’ email marketing strategies

So, what is this change, and how can nonprofits adapt to it?

What is Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection Policy?

In recent years, email marketing has become an essential facet of online marketing strategies, allowing both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations to connect with their clients, donors and constituents on a more personal level. The impact of email marketing has proven to be deeply effective, boosting online awareness and engagement.

And for a long time, email marketers could gather engagement data about their email campaigns by inserting invisible pixels into the email body. This way, when emails are open, and these pixels are loaded, the email host can detect that the email has been opened. This technology also communicates back the recipient’s IP address, which gives an approximate location usually limited to the recipient’s city. 

However, with Apple’s mail privacy protection policy, email marketers will no longer be able to track if or when emails sent have been open. The update limits the amount of data that can be collected about an email campaign’s performance. 

Specifically, the policy states that:

“Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

In essence, if Apple Mail users opt-in, this policy will make it impossible for email marketers to track email engagement metrics and, specifically, open rates.

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How Nonprofit Email Marketers Can Adapt to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection

In short, this policy severely impacts one key metric: Open Rates

An open rate is an email marketing metric that tracks the percentage of recipients who opened the email sent. It allows nonprofits to assess the health and engagement of their subscription list. 

Many marketers rely on Open Rate to determine the success of their email marketing efforts. It is used to determine the success of re-engagement campaigns, automated nurture flows, and send-time optimization campaigns

With this new policy, email marketers can’t assess their email campaign performances accurately. But here are five steps you can take to circumvent this:

1. Update Your Workflow Criteria

If your automated email workflow currently relies on an email being opened before delivering the next one in the flow, you may need to adjust this to rely on a specific time frame instead. 

2. Track Alternative Email Metrics

Since open rates will no longer be as accurate, organizations will need to rely on other metrics to assess their email campaign performance. Some email engagement metrics to consider include: 

  • Unsubscribe Rate: This metric measures how many of your subscribers are actively leaving your email list. By tracking this metric, you can better understand how many contacts no longer want to receive your communications and find out if there’s a correlation between specific content types and unsubscriptions. 
  • Spam Complaint Rate: This metric tells you how many recipients are classifying your emails as spam. This can be damaging to your email marketing efforts. If many subscribers categorize your email as spam, it can allow future communications to be blocked by Internet Service Providers. As a result, those who actually want to receive your emails may not be able to. 
  • Click Rate: Click rate refers to the number of clicks you receive within your email content out of the total number of emails sent and emails opened. This metric shows you how recipients are engaging with your email’s content so you can make any necessary adjustments. 

Ultimately, tracking multiple email metrics will allow you to supplement the data lost by the compromised open rate. The best practice for nonprofit organizations is to track activity across a diverse array of metrics to get a dynamic and overarching view of the success of your marketing efforts. In any marketing campaign, success should never rely solely on one metric, and tracking across multiple will provide deeper insight into the engagement of your contact list. 

3. Determine your Nonprofit’s Best Time to Send Emails

While you can, and if you haven’t done so in a while, consider conducting A/B tests to determine the best time to send emails to your donors. This will boost the chance of donors and supporters opening and acting on your emails. 

4. Update Your Nonprofit’s Email List

Now’s the time to organize your nonprofit’s email lists and perform inactivity management practices. In other words, find out those recipients who aren’t engaging with your email and conduct a re-engagement campaign. After the campaign, you may need to delete contacts who still aren’t engaging with your content. This step will help you better assess your email campaign performance and limit the chances of your emails getting tagged as spam in the future. 

5. Improve the Quality of Your Nonprofit’s Email Content

Finally, one of the best ways to ensure the success of your marketing efforts is to create personal, compelling email content. In essence, your donors will interact with the content they find most interesting, and the quality of your content should always take priority over the quantity and strategy (although all these pieces go hand in hand!). 

Apple’s mail privacy protection can impact the way you communicate with your donors. But don’t fret, you can start making changes today to adapt to this new policy and ensure your donor relationships aren’t affected. For more email marketing best practices, check out Keela’s Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Email Marketing


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