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Build Trust With Your Donor by Testing a Different Email Sender Name

Published by Jeff Giddens

Have you ever sent an email appeal from the founder or president of your organization? This is probably the most common type of email sender name that we see in the nonprofit space. We have plenty of clients who do this.

We did a quick survey of attendees to a recent webinar, asking them to send us a sample email appeal from their organization. From the email appeals we received, 91% of them were sent from either the founder, the president, or the main figure-head of the organization.

I have to ask, do people believe the founder of your organization actually wrote them an email? The answer to this question affects their response to our emails. And the only way to find out is to test it.

Let’s look at some real experiments and raw data on how organizations tested using a different email sender name.

How a more personal email affects performance metrics

Experiment #1666

Experiment 1666 - New Email Sender Name - ControlThis is an email from CaringBridge. It’s part of an automated email series they sent out, and it made an appeal that asked for a gift.

The first email came from Sona Mehring, the founder of CaringBridge. Up to this point, she had sent all the email appeals in the campaign. We wondered if people would believe it more if we sent the email from Kelly, a member of CaringBridge’s development team.

You can see in the images below that there’s a significant difference in the design between the control and the treatment, but the first element we varied was the email sender name.

The control is a heavily designed email sent from the founder of the organization. It makes the call-to-action using large buttons.

The treatment is designed to mimic Outlook emails, and was sent from a member of the development team. There are no “designed” elements except the logo and the signature. We also added a more personal subject line.

Experiment 1666 - New Email Sender Name - Treatment

The treatment, Kelly’s email, produced a 6.3% increase in open rate.


I think the reason we believe we have to send emails from the founder or president of the organization is because of an idea that authority is motivating. However, this test suggests that people actually believe it more when an email comes from someone within the organization.

Additionally, because of the redesign of the email, Kelly’s email received a much higher click-through rate and response rate. We’ll cover this more later, but it’s interesting what this says about trust.

How a brand in the email sender field affects email open and click-through rate

Experiment #3334

Here is an email from we at NextAfter sent promoting a live broadcast called “Turning Facebook Likes Into Donors.” We partnered with a technology company that let us send an email to their list.

Experiment 3334 - Branded Sender Name - ControlMost likely, the people in this list didn’t know Tim Kachuriak. We wanted to test how adding our company’s name would affect the open and response rate. Now, we don’t believe that a lot of people have heard our company’s name. But we hypothesized that more people had heard of our company’s name than Tim’s name. For our treatment, we added “NextAfter” right after “Tim Kachuriak” in hopes of creating some familiarity.

The treatment produced a 10.1% decrease in the open rate, and a 20.7% decrease in the click-through rate.

Experiment 3334 - Branded Sender Name - Treatment

We thought this was really interesting, and kind of humorous. Like I said, we’re not expert fundraisers or marketers. We are constantly learning, and we’re on the quest to find out what works. Sometimes, when trying to increase perceived familiarity, we can actually decrease the personal feel of an email and inadvertently remind our reader that they don’t know us.


When we tell the recipient, “I don’t know who you are,” it reminds them they don’t know us. This adds anxiety as they open our email, and makes them less likely to open, click, or respond. This also tells us that all of these metrics are interconnected. The sender affects the click-through rate, not just the open rate.

So when choosing the sender of your next email appeal, try testing a sender that is both believable and personal. If you can immediately begin to build trust with the recipient before they even open your email, you’ll increase the likelihood of getting a click.

Grow your email file more than you ever thought possible

6 Ways to Grow Your Email FileBuilding trust through testing your email sender name can help you grow you open rates, click rates, and even donation conversions. But the most telling sign of your organization’s ability to raise money online is the size of your email file.

If you can grow the size of your email file, you can grow your total online fundraising revenue.

You can start growing the size of your email file by testing the 6 strategies outlined in our free eBook, 6 Ways to Grow Your Email File. Download your free copy today to start acquiring more emails and raise more money online.

Published by Jeff Giddens

Jeff Giddens is President of NextAfter.