Luminate Online FAQs

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Delivery and deliverability

Delivery refers to whether a mailbox provider accepts a message. Deliverability refers to how a mailbox provider determines where to place a message, such as in the recipient's inbox or SPAM folder.

Blackbaud receives daily monitoring reports from our partner Return Path which show:

  • How many SPAM traps our client domains sent messages to

  • Whether any of our sending IPs were blacklisted in the last 24 hours

If you received a notification from Blackbaud that your bulk email service is suspended because you sent to SPAM traps and caused a Blackbaud IP address to appear on an external blacklist, you must complete these three steps to reactivate bulk email:

  1. Use Luminate Engagement Factors to identify recipients who haven’t interacted with your messages in the past 90 days and remove them. Blackbaud requires you to remove recipients from the segment(s) that caused the problem, but we strongly recommend you use the opportunity to review your entire house file.

    Note: After Blackbaud notifies you that your email is reactivated, you may begin to slowly begin adding recipients who haven’t engaged for longer periods of time, such as 120 days, 180 days, etc. We’ll provide as much information as possible to help you determine how far you can extend back without sending to SPAM traps. .

  2. If you purchase or use lists of email addresses from third parties, learn how they validate email addresses. Our Acceptable Use Policy requires the list owners to use their own brands and email systems to invite subscribers to opt in to receive email from your organization. Once you obtain consent for those recipients, you may then use Blackbaud’s products to send email to them.

  3. Review your online forms and confirm that, at a minimum, you use reCAPTCHA or double opt-in on all non-transactional forms which collect email addresses for your email marketing program.

First, ask the recipient to check their SPAM or junk folder. If the email didn't reach them, verify Luminate sent the message.

  1. Navigate to Constituent360 and select Constituents.

  2. Search for the constituent and select View.

  3. Select the Interactions tab.

  4. Select Emails Sent.

If the message doesn't appear in the list, it was likely suppressed for one of these reasons.

  • Hard bounces — When email delivery fails, mailbox providers send bounce code responses. The system categorizes and tracks these bounce codes so that it can suppress email addresses when they fail, such as when a recipient's address is invalid or their account is closed.

  • SPAM complaints — Our email specialists help maintain Feedback Loop (FBL) agreements with mailbox providers that offer FBL programs. With an FBL agreement, a mailbox provider agrees to inform us when a recipient marks a message as unsolicited — such as when they select a "This is SPAM" button or link — so that our system can suppress their email address from future mailings from that sender.

    Note: If the same email address appears in the recipient list for a mailing from another Blackbaud client, our system does not suppress it unless the recipient also marks the message from the other client as unsolicited.

  • Opt-out links — When a recipient uses an opt-out link in a message to request removal from future emails, our system suppresses their email address from future mailings specific to their request, such as only for a particular newsletter or all emails from an organization.

  • Accepts Email is No — When the value of the Accepts Email field in a recipient's constituent record is No, the system suppresses their email address.

  • Deceased — When the value of the Deceased field in a recipient's constituent record is Yes, the system suppresses their email address.

The emails were likely delivered, but placed into recipient SPAM folders rather than their inboxes. To determine where to place messages, Gmail relies primarily on recipient engagement and feedback such as whether they previously:

  • Opened messages from you and clicked links within them

  • Marked messages from you as SPAM

  • Added your "from" address to their "whitelist" of contacts

We recommend you include content in your messages to remind users to add your "from" address to their list of approved senders. Also, follow our other deliverability recommendations and content best practices to increase the likelihood that your messages reach recipient inboxes.

For more information, we recommend you review these industry articles:

List-unsubscribe is a term used to describe opt-out links some mailbox providers — including Gmail and Outlook — add to the top of messages. To support these requests, Luminate Online automatically adds a field to email headers which informs mailbox providers where to send opt-out requests from recipients. It’s an industry best practice to support the links because — unlike SPAM complaints — there’s no negative impact to your sender reputation with mailbox providers when recipients use them.

Yes. Luminate Online automatically adds a field in the headers of all Email Campaign and Coaching emails to inform mailbox providers where to send opt-out requests from links they include at the top of messages.

Note: The field isn’t added to transactional emails or to email constituents create such as TellAFriend, eCards, or Participant Center messages.

The opt-out links some mailbox providers — including Gmail and Outlook — add to the top of messages is a more trusted and convenient option for recipients than the legally required unsubscribe links organizations include within the content of their bulk messages.

Although the links provide another way for recipients to opt-out and don’t direct them to your custom unsubscribe options page, it’s better for you if they unsubscribe rather than mark messages as SPAM. Unlike SPAM complaints, there’s no negative impact to your sender reputation with mailbox providers when recipients use list unsubscribe links.

The following mailbox providers use list-unsubscribe information from email headers:

  • Gmail
  • Microsoft (Outlook.com, Live, Hotmail)
  • iOS (Apple)

The mailbox providers who currently use this information decide whether and when to display the list-unsubscribe option.

Although Gmail doesn't provide the exact criteria for when they choose to display the unsubscribe link, they explain in their support information that it appears as a reward for senders with high engagement scores. Senders receive higher scores when they send messages to engaged recipients who read and click on content.

The emails were likely delivered, but placed into recipient SPAM folders rather than their inboxes. To determine where to place messages, Gmail in particular relies primarily on recipient engagement and feedback such as whether they previously:

  • Opened messages from you and clicked links within them

  • Marked messages from you as SPAM

  • Added your "from" address to their "whitelist" of contacts

We recommend you include content in your messages to remind users to add your "from" address to their list of approved senders. Also, follow our other deliverability recommendations and content best practices to increase the likelihood that your messages reach recipient inboxes.

For more information, we recommend you review these industry articles:

You configure Google Postmaster within Google and use information from the DNS server of your sender domain. Since we don't host your DNS, we are unable to assist with this implementation.

Our email specialists help maintain Feedback Loop (FBL) agreements with major mailbox providers that offer FBL programs. Although you can't set up your own feedback loop, since they are only available for the outgoing mail servers that send messages, we encourage you to regularly review email message reports in Luminate Online.

Since there is no set criteria or central database of IP reputations, each mailbox provider can establish their own criteria for ranking an IP. Gmail, for instance, relies primarily on user engagement and feedback to rank senders. If recipients mark messages from you as SPAM, Gmail then rates the reputation of the sending IP as "low". Conversely, when recipients move messages from their SPAM folder to their inbox or click links within a message, Gmail ranks the sender more favorably.

As an ESP, we conform to standards for high-volume senders to ensure email delivery. We use our system in combination with a dedicated team of email specialists to help ensure your messages reach their intended recipients.

Your email deliverability rate is the number of emails you sent that were successfully delivered to recipients, regardless of whether they were placed in their inboxes or SPAM folders.

When emails aren't delivered, it's typically because the email addresses:

  • Do not exist because they include typos

  • Were cancelled or deactivated since you sent your last message

  • Are not available when you attempt to send to them because of technical difficulty with the mailbox provider

  • Are not available because the recipient's account is full

SPAM blacklists are domain and IP address inventories of senders with poor reputations which sometimes help mailbox providers determine whether to place messages in recipient inboxes. Large trustworthy companies, as well as small, independent networks, create these lists and each provider uses them differently. Typically, mailbox providers combine data from various public blacklists — as well as information from their own networks — to determine the credibility of a sender. Subsequently, many lists have little to no effect on IP reputation. Major providers disregard low-priority lists entirely and only use information from high-priority services such as SpamHaus and SpamCop.

Blackbaud subscribes to ReturnPath — the email industry’s leading deliverability solution provider — to monitor external blacklists for our IP addresses. When necessary — such as on the rare occasions when SpamHaus or SpamCop list our IP addresses — our team of email specialists immediately request to delist them. We recommend you use services such as uribl.com to monitor your domain and, if necessary, request to de-list it.

Note: Blacklist companies don’t block messages. Rather, mailbox providers use the listings as reasons for blocks. To prevent blocking, we recommend you manage your list quality and maintain a database of engaged recipients.

Sender reputation is how mailbox providers perceive the IPs that send email to them. Each provider uses propriety metrics to determine the reputation for an IP, such as the number of:

  • Spam complaints it generates

  • Unknown users it attempts to send to

  • High-priority industry blacklists it’s included on, such as Spamhaus and SpamCop

An IP’s sender reputation often helps determine whether a provider places a message from it in a recipient’s inbox or SPAM folder.

We strive to protect our IP reputations and have a number of processes in place to guard them. For example, our system grades senders based on their SPAM complaint rate to ensure users with similar mailing practices and reputations send together from the same IP addresses. This ensures the senders who manage the quality of their recipient lists and follow other deliverability recommendations, benefit from our IP addresses with the highest reputation levels.

Since there is no set criteria or central database of IP reputations, each mailbox provider can establish their own criteria for ranking an IP. Gmail, for instance, relies primarily on user engagement and feedback to rank senders. If a recipient marks a message from you as SPAM, Gmail then rates the reputation of the sending IP as "low". Other service providers more strongly consider content, while still others consider a combination of content and engagement.

We strive to protect our IP reputations and have a number of processes in place to guard them. For example, our system grades senders based on their SPAM complaint rate to ensure users with similar mailing practices and reputations send together from the same IP addresses. This ensures the senders who manage the quality of their recipient lists and follow other deliverability recommendations, benefit from our IP addresses with the highest reputation levels.

Return Path — the email industry's leading deliverability solution provider — measures Blackbaud's average IP reputation as ~96.

However, mailbox providers use a combination of processes to determine whether to accept the delivery of a message and then whether to place it in a recipient's inbox or other folder, such as SPAM or junk. Specifically, to determine whether to accept delivery, they consider the ESP's reputation at that given point in time. To determine deliverability, they evaluate:

  • Whether recipients previously engaged with the sender's messages

  • The email's design and composition

  • The reputation of the sender's domain

Blackbaud maintains reputable IP addresses and adheres to guidelines mailbox providers provide to ensure our system sends messages to your recipients. However, given the multitude of factors — such as whether recipients engage with the content you send, changesmailbox providers make to their practices, and the availability of the internet — that contribute to delivery, we can't guarantee it.

These terms are nearly synonymous. Deliverability refers to how an mailbox provider determines where to place a message, such as in the recipient's inbox or SPAM folder. It encompasses multiple factors including how:

  • ESPs configure their servers and maintain IP reputations

  • Mailbox providers filter content

  • Senders manage their domain reputations

Inbox placement refers to whether messages are delivered to recipient inboxes.

As an ESP, we conform to standards for high-volume senders to ensure email delivery. We use our system in combination with a dedicated team of email specialists — who constantly monitor changes that occur within our system and throughout the industry — to help ensure your messages reach their intended recipients.

Some mailbox providers return messages as “undeliverable” or delay their delivery if an ESP tries to send too many emails at one time.

To avoid returned or delayed messages, our system uses a process known as throttling to restrict the number of concurrent connections it makes with mailbox providers to comply with their threshold specifications. Our email specialists continually monitor throttling limits and adjust our send rates as necessary — or as required — to ensure email performance.

Since mailbox providers don't announce updates to their algorithms or requirements, our team of email specialists constantly monitor changes in deliverability and industry trends so we can react quickly and adjust our system as necessary.

Our email specialists coordinate and maintain our statuses on whitelists across the major mailbox providers.

Recipients might not receive Tell-A-Friend (TAF) messages from Participant Center or Autoresponders because:

Processing

As an Email Service Provider (ESP), Blackbaud's sending system is robust and scales well for clients both large and small. Since our system can send large numbers of messages simultaneously, we conform to standards for high-volume senders to ensure email delivery.

Rather than use "pools" or "groups" to protect deliverability, our system assigns you one of three grades — based on your SPAM complaint rate — to determine which IP addresses to use for your mailings. To calculate the rate, the system counts how many complaints it received about your messages over the past 30 days and divides the number by how many emails you sent. The system updates the rate each night and uses the current average to assign your grade whenever you send a message.

When you manage the quality of your recipient lists and follow other deliverability recommendations , you are more likely to receive fewer SPAM complaints. A low SPAM complaint rate allows the system to assign you to IP addresses with higher reputations.

Currently, we don't notify you when your grade changes. However, we encourage you to monitor your SPAM complaint rate and adjust your mailing strategies if it increases.

Blackbaud maintains reputable IP addresses and adheres to guidelines mailbox providers provide to ensure our system sends messages to your recipients. However, given the multitude of factors — such as whether recipients engage with the content you send and the quality of the recipient lists you use — that contribute to deliverability, we can't guarantee mailbox providers deliver messages to recipient inboxes.

To protect our clients from the detrimental impact a dedicated IP address can have on a sender if they don't consistently send the volume of messages mailbox providers expect, Blackbaud does not offer dedicated IP addresses.

Mailbox providers evaluate the reputations of our system's individual IP addresses when they determine message deliverability. An IP address' reputation is the result of factors such as how frequently it sends messages and whether content engages recipients. When multiple clients use an IP address, they leverage the benefit of increased sending volume. In fact, most other ESPs also encourage their clients to share IP addresses.

To protect our clients from the detrimental impact a dedicated IP address can have on a sender if they don't consistently send the volume of messages mailbox providers expect, Blackbaud does not offer dedicated IP addresses. Since our system grades senders based on their SPAM complaint rate to ensure users with similar mailing practices and reputations send together from the same IP addresses, you would experience similar or — more likely — worse deliverability with a dedicated IP address.

When you manage the quality of your recipient lists and follow other deliverability recommendations, you are more likely to receive fewer SPAM complaints. A low SPAM complaint rate allows the system to assign you to IP addresses with higher reputations.

Our system evaluates — in rolling 30 day intervals — SPAM complaint rates and updates your grade accordingly. These periodic adjustments ensure that as your sending practices improve, your IP address grade level also improves.

To calculate your Luminate Online SPAM complaint rate, the system counts how many SPAM complaints it received about your messages over the past 30 days and divides the number by how many emails you sent. The system updates the rate each night and uses the current average to assign your grade whenever you send a message. Since this rate determines the grade the system assigns for your IP address reputation level, you should strive to engage your recipients so that none of them mark your messages as SPAM. To comply with industry best practices, we recommend you keep your rate for each campaign below .1%.

Our system dynamically shifts senders between IPs as necessary to prevent mailing practices of individual organizations from adversely impacting an IP's reputation for others. Also, our email specialists closely monitor email practices and, if necessary, can intervene to disable service for a sender if they violate the Acceptable Use Policy and disrupt delivery for others.

Since our system doesn't know whether new email addresses are valid, we segregate them from the other addresses in recipient lists and use separate IPs — which are not associated with bulk mailings — to send to them. When delivery is successful, we approve the email addresses to join the sender's regular list for their next mailing.

We recommend you send welcome emails when new subscribers join your list so we can verify the addresses and provide them with an opportunity to add your "from" address to their list of approved senders. When you follow this best practice, you improve your chances of inbox placement.

To prevent malicious senders from excluding spam traps from their lists, the addresses seem legitimate. Unfortunately, we can't identify them either, so we rely on clients to manage their data and only send to engaged recipients who opt-in to receive messages.

While we don't recommend you purchase email lists — since they often contain SPAM trap addresses — we understand that sometimes you must. If so, we strongly encourage you to:

  • Only purchase lists from reputable sources.

  • Verify the last time a sender mailed to the email addresses. To reduce the likelihood that many are invalid, ensure they are less than six months old.

  • Send an opt-in or subscription related message to confirm recipients are interested in additional messages.

Best practices

To ensure mailbox providers place your messages in recipient inboxes, and to improve engagement, we recommend you follow our recommended best practices.

You can share the link to this site.

We encourage you to review the deliverability recommendations outlined in this site.

We encourage you to follow these deliverability recommendations.

The time it takes a sender to repair their reputation depends on how badly it was damaged. Once you implement our deliverability recommendations, it could take only a few weeks for your domain's reputation to improve and for your SPAM complaint rate to decrease.

This article outlines steps you can follow to identify and segment your constituents.

Blackbaud currently partners with Return Path — the email industry's leading deliverability solution provider — to identify and help resolve deliverability issues. We are actively evaluating ways to bring additional data points to Luminate Online.

When you follow best practices, more people will open your messages and fewer will report them as SPAM. We recommend you monitor whether your open rates increase and your SPAM complaint rate decreases as you adjust your mailing practices.

An engaged user is someone who opens messages and clicks links within them. We encourage you to review our best practices for email content.

We encourage you to follow these deliverability recommendations. If you believe you're following the recommendations, but continue to have issues, we encourage you to contact your Customer Success Manager.

We trust — and expect — your organization to maintain a database of engaged recipients.

We recommend you regularly review your data and group recipients into these categories so you can determine whether to continue to send messages to them:

  • Engaged — Recipients who open or click links within messages you send.

  • Stale or inactive — Recipients who do not open or click links within messages you send over an extended period, such as three to six months. Since recipients who do not engage with your content can lower your reputation as a sender, consider strategies to re-engage them or remove them from your database.

Note: An mailbox provider can convert an abandoned or retired address into a spam trap after just six months.

Also, review these recommendations for communication plans so you ensure your messages are effective and well-received.

We recommend you review this information about sender authentication.

For an exhaustive list of words to avoid, see HubSpot's The Ultimate List of Email SPAM Trigger Words.