How to Ensure Your Emails are Actually Delivered (Part 1 of 4)

Successful Email Deliverability Part 1: Checking Your Lists

You have your email to your constituents ready to go. It’s beautiful. It’s edited. Your links have all been tested. You have your email program set up to send it. It’s go time. 

But is it actually going where you think? 

The hard truth is that it will never matter how well-crafted your emails are if they aren’t getting to your constituents’ inboxes in the first place. Your emails could be getting sent to spam, or, worse, blacklisted by inbox providers (ISPs) such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc. without you realizing it. 

A checkup and maintenance on your organization’s email deliverability will ensure your emails are getting where you need them to go: your constituents’ inboxes. 

We are going to take a deep dive into email deliverability over a few blog posts to help you understand why your emails might not be delivered. 

Our first topic will dive into your lists themselves.

Get Rid of Spam Traps

You have probably heard the old database adage, “garbage in, garbage out”. Better deliverability rates begin with the donor data in your CRM, and if your email addresses you have on file aren’t good, your deliverability will suffer. Spam traps might be the first thing you want to check. 

Spam traps are email addresses ISPs utilize to identify malicious senders. There are a few types of spam traps such as deactivated accounts, lists of scraped emails purchased, typos, etc. Spam traps look like real email addresses – and they may very well have been at one point – but are pivotal to move to your suppression lists as soon as they are found. Mailing to even one or two spam traps will negatively affect your send reputation and your ability to reach your active subscribers. 

To get rid of spam traps, first check your send results on your lists and remove bounces. Those emails are either currently spam traps or could become spam traps in the near future. You must also manage your longtime inactive subscribers as they are affecting your open rates and your send reputation. If your open and click-through rates are extremely low, ISPs will begin sending your emails to spam/junk folders upon delivery.

Implement Best Practices for List Acquisition

While removing spam traps from your current lists, your organization should implement best practices to obtain email addresses and keep your lists clean. 

Here are a few ways you can make sure your lists are healthy: 

  • Do not buy email lists. If you are currently doing this, stop yesterday. These are exactly what ISPs are looking for and are the quickest way to get your emails blocked or sent to spam folders.
  • Use reCAPTCHA with your mailing signup.
    Google’s reCAPTCHA has been modernized and can help prevent automated bots from signing up and subscribing to your mailings.
  • Require double opt-in.
    There are now many tools that offer a double opt-in feature. When implemented subscribers are required to click on a link in an email to confirm they are the owner of the email address entered and they meant to sign up for your email list. This drastically reduces the number of email recipients that will report your emails as spam to their ISP. 

Valid email addresses are the first key to email deliverability, and one where the effort and maintenance pay off very quickly. 

Stay tuned for more on this series about email deliverability as we go through more topics that will get your emails the attention they deserve: sender reputation, authentication, and content best practices. If your organization needs more hands on deck, our Client Success team is dedicated to assisting clients with email support.


As Vice President of Digital Services, Molly helps nonprofit organizations develop digital solutions to communicate their mission, reach monetary goals, and create real world impact. Molly believes in the power of technology for change.

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