Managing the Impact of Apple Mail Privacy on Your Nonprofit’s Marketing Efforts - Heller Consulting

Managing the Impact of Apple Mail Privacy on Your Nonprofit’s Marketing Efforts

Back in October of last year, we brought you an overview of Apple’s privacy changes in iOS 15 and how they might affect your nonprofit organization. By now, you might be noticing the impact of these changes.

Because of the privacy changes, open rates simply aren’t useful anymore. This means that if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to change your thinking about the metrics you use to determine how well your email marketing efforts are performing.

Let’s put this in perspective with a real-world example.

A real-life example of the impact of Apple mail privacy changes on nonprofits

One of our clients here at Heller Consulting sent an email message to nearly 54,000 email addresses, and here’s the open rate chart:  













Notice the open rate of 10,494, or 19.46% of total emails sent. The results make it appear as if this effort performed well in terms of getting constituents to open the email.

But dig a little deeper to look at email engagement data for the opens, and you find that slightly less than half (47.1%) fall into the broad engagement category of people who didn’t read it or just glanced at it.













Let’s assume that most of those are a result of opens using Apple Mail Privacy (meaning that Apple, not the recipient, opened the email). Following the numbers, 47.1% of the 10,494 opens equals 4,942. Subtract that from the 10,494 number of opens and you end up with 5,552 opens, which is about a 9% open rate – a big difference from the 19.46% open rate shown in the initial open rate chart.

Now, if you look at the email client breakdown, you’ll see that more than half of the email audience’s device information appears as “Apple Privacy Mail”. That’s a big chunk of the email audience whose open rate is unreliable.









This client example is consistent with what we’re seeing with our other clients as well.

Aside from the challenges of seeing how well email messages are performing based on open rates, the email privacy changes affect other marketing practices as well. For example, one of the most common marketing automations we encourage for deliverability purposes is to suppress unengaged subscribers from email messages. The classic definition of an unengaged subscriber is someone who has been sent X number of emails in Y number of months and has opened none of them. Now (using the email client breakdown graph above as an example), 57.1% of people in the list are not going to show up as unengaged because their Apple device has opened all of the emails automatically through Apple Mail Privacy.

And here’s one more thing to consider: Google has announced that there’s similar email privacy functionality coming soon for Android users. So, open rates will become even less reliable than they already are.

So, what can you do to manage the impact of these changes on your email marketing?

Tips for managing the impact of email privacy changes for your nonprofit

It’s time to look away from open rates and toward new metrics for your email marketing efforts. Here are some ideas:

  • Review your email metrics. Are you surprised by what you see? Have your email open rates spiked? What percentage of your email opens appear as “glanced at or not read”? How many of your email messages are being opened through Apple Mail Privacy?

  • Re-think your metrics. Move away from open rates to determine how well your emails are performing. Instead, start looking at click rates to help you determine true engagement.

  • Re-work your marketing automations. Be sure to change your definition of unengaged subscribers so that it’s based on click rates and other engagement metrics instead of open rates.

  • Explore functionality in your marketing tools. Some marketing tools are starting to provide functionality to help you adjust your marketing efforts based on privacy changes. For example, the Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (formerly known as Pardot) marketing automation tool offers functionality to help you audit automations that are based on open rate. Be sure to look into these new capabilities and put them to use.


As email privacy continues to evolve, keeping your marketing and fundraising on track means rethinking your marketing strategies and tactics. If you’d like assistance with reviewing your marketing technology approaches and modifying them to align with privacy changes, the Heller Consulting team is ready to help. Contact us today to learn more and get started.


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About the Author

Catherine Moore
Catherine has served the nonprofit sector for over 20 years, defining and guiding the strategic pathway for technology, digital transformation, marketing, and fundraising at the Canadian Cancer Society and others. She is skilled at understanding and addressing the human concerns... Read More

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