Email Marketing Glossary


If you’re here, it means you know the value of email marketing for nonprofits — a return on investment of 122% and an average 28% of nonprofit revenue. But when you get in the weeds of email, the jargon can be overwhelming.
There are seemingly hundreds of acronyms in the email marketing space, not to mention the minor (but meaningful) differences in definitions between various tools. With our email marketing glossary, you’ll never confuse a group with a segment again. We’re including both a general email marketing glossary, plus we note which terms map onto which email marketing tools. When you’re fluent, you can better utilize the tools to send tailored messages, take advantage of their many features, and optimize your email strategy to drive donations.

Email Marketing Glossary

A/B test

Design practice that tests two different versions of a piece of content with your audience, and then measures the performance. Check out our guide on how to A/B test your emails — including what to test and how to run tests in Mailchimp.

Automation (aka Drip Series, Automated Series, or Workflow)

The name changes depending on the tool (see our tool-specific glossaries below), but the game is the same: This is a series of emails that automatically send to your list, or a segment of your list, based on conditions and triggers. Some common versions of this are the Welcome Series and Autoresponder. (Used in Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, Luminate by Blackbaud).


One type of automated email, which is typically a single email triggered by an individual’s action, such as a donation or an event signup.


A list of email addresses that are blocked by a spam filter and are not allowed to send.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of selected recipients on your email list that didn’t receive your email because it was returned by a recipient’s mail server. This could be due to their inbox being full, the email address being wrong, or another host of issues. A bounce rate is the number of bounces divided by the number of people the email was sent to. Most EMPs will clean an account of its bounces, but keep an eye on your bounce rate to make sure it stays at 0.5% or lower. (A high bounce rate could also mean you should be using a double opt-in, more information below.) Aim to keep it at 0.5% or lower.


Straight from the FTC, this is a law that sets the rules for commercial email marketing campaigns, establishes requirements for commercial messages, and gives recipients the right to have a business stop emailing them.


Call-to-Action. Essentially, the main ask of an email. Ideal formatting is a button with a direct action request. CTAs typically ask a subscriber to click to do something, whether it is donate, read more, watch, share, etc.


Click-through rate. This is the number of clicks on an email divided by the number of people that were sent the email. Mailchimp reports that the average for nonprofits is 2.57%.

Double opt-in

When a subscriber signs up for a list, they are sent an email asking them to confirm their subscription. Only after they click a confirmation button are they added to the list in the EMP. Here’s why we recommend the double opt-in for nonprofits.

Email Template

Email templates are like blueprints for your emails — they allow you to create text and HTML email designs and store them for future use. We have 10 tips for effective email template design.


Email Marketing Provider, also known as Email Marketing Service. For example, any of the tools included in this guide: Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Pardot, Blackbaud Luminate, etc.


Information about contacts is stored in list fields and can be seen in the list view and profile pages. Includes name, email address, organization, address, etc.


The General Data Protection Regulation. It is a standardized set of rules and expectations for how the data of EU citizens should be handled. Get our full guide to GDPR for nonprofits.

Hard Bounce

Permanent delivery failures due to an invalid, erroneous address, an outdated domain, or an address which has fallen out of use. This is different from a soft bounce.

Landing Page

A specific web page that a visitor “lands” on after clicking a link. Here are 6 tips for making a successful landing page.


Group of emails based on their relation to your organization. When building out, consider how these subscribers got to your list. Lists can hold individual subscriber emails or segments. (Used in: Mailchimp, Pardot, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, Luminate by Blackbaud, etc.)

Open Rate (OR)

The number of opens on an email divided by the number of people that were sent the email. Mailchimp reports that the average for nonprofits is 24%.

Preference Page

A page that allows your prospects to subscribe and unsubscribe from your public lists. (Used in: Mailchimp, Pardot, Campaign Monitor, and more.)


A subset of subscribers. A segment may represent an audience or a group of accounts who will get a specific source/package. In Mailchimp, segments are based on email subscriber behavior, such as opens, and clicks. In tools like Pardot, Campaign Monitor, and Luminate by Blackbaud, segments can be based on subscriber behavior, or just what they are interested in.

Single opt-in

When a subscriber signs up for a list through a form, they are immediately added to the list in the EMP.

Soft Bounce

Temporary delivery failures and can occur for a variety of reasons such as the subscriber’s server being down or inbox being full.


An individual that has given you permission to communicate with them via email.


Labels on subscribers to add another layer of segmentation. Make key information about subscriber engagement, interest, or info easier to find and segment by. They make Mailchimp more like a CRM. (Used in Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Luminate by Blackbaud.)


When a contact chooses to no longer receive email from your organization in the future.

Unsubscribe Rate

The number of people that unsubscribe from your list divided by the number of people that received the email. Aim to keep this below 0.5%.


A list of email addresses that are approved by a spam filter and are allowed to send.

Blackbaud Luminate Glossary


A single email message that is sent to a large group of recipients.


Sections of a list that you send an email to, typically based on their relation to your organization or email behavior.

Audience Segmentation

The process of breaking up your list into audiences.

Source/Package Segmentation

The process of dividing a universe or audience into different groups of accounts and assigning each group a specific source/package.


A general population of accounts selected for a solicitation. In other words, your full list of mailable emails.

Campaign Monitor Glossary

Dynamic Content

Pre-set options for content to display based on subscriber criteria. As people match the criteria set for your dynamic content, a variation of content will display where you embed the generated code on your website or email.

Email Blast

A single email message that is sent to a large group of recipients without segmenting your list.

Email Campaign

A coordinated set of individual email messages that are deployed across a specific period of time with one specific purpose.


Email content customized to subscribers based on their individual desires, interests, and data.

Transactional Email

An automatic email triggered by a transaction, such as a purchase or a donation.

Mailchimp Glossary


A list of emails in your account, can be all subscribed or unsubscribed. Mailchimp switched from using “lists” to “audiences” in March 2019. More info here. 


An individual email sent to a list, group, or segment.

Group Categories

The name for a group of groups. Think of them as buckets to hold your more granular groups, and note that they only hold groups, not subscribers. You can put subscribers in a group, but not in a group category. We recommend naming and organizing them based on content topics, or the answer to “How did these people get on our list?”


A collection of subscribers, categorized by their interests or preferences. Limit of 60/list.

Merge Tags

The information you collect through your MailChimp signup form is saved in a list field and tied to a unique label, called a merge tag. Use merge tags to insert personalized or dynamic content from your list into the campaigns you send.

Pardot Glossary

Active Prospect

Prospects that have had at least one activity (any activity besides an email send, email open, email bounce, or opportunity).

Automation Rule

Allow you to perform certain marketing and sales actions based on criteria that you specify.


Pardot campaigns are thematic touchpoints and they track a prospect’s first interaction with your organization (similar to “source” in Google Analytics). A prospect’s Pardot campaign is set when a prospect first hits a Pardot tracked link or Pardot tracking code.

Custom Redirect

Pardot’s custom redirects allow you to track any link on your website or a third party site.

Dynamic Content

Using Pardot’s advanced dynamic content, you can display certain HTML content on your Pardot forms and emails based on a prospect’s score, field info, or more. As people match the criteria set for your dynamic content, a variation of content will display where you embed the generated code on your website or email.

Dynamic List

Rule-based lists of prospects that automatically update as prospect data changes. Their information cannot be updated manually — it only updates based on the rules you set for the list.


A label based on information about the prospect (industry, title, company size, etc) and indicates how interested or engaged your organization should be with that prospect.


Prospects that can receive emails through Pardot, meaning have not unsubscribed, had a hard bounce or 5 soft bounces, and were not manually opted out by a user.


Prospects are anonymous visitors that have subscribed to your list via a Pardot form and are now identified.


Numerical points awarded to subscribers based on implicit activities (pages viewed, forms completed, and so on) that prospect perform. Scoring indicates how interested or engaged a prospect is with your company.

Scoring Rules

Rules that are used to adjust a prospects score. Pardot has baseline scoring rules, and you can create your own custom rules.

Segmentation Rule

Allow you to pull a one-time list of prospects based on specific criteria, such as based email behavior or campaign. Unlike automation rules, segmentation rules do not run continuously.


User-driven taxonomy for use in sorting or filtering data and reporting. Every asset in Pardot can be tagged with one or multiple keywords or phrases. In this case, anything can be tagged to group subscribers, lists, campaigns, content, and media by a topic, which is different from the way tags are used in other EMSes (like those mentioned in the general glossary above).


Prospects who have opted out of email communication in Pardot, were imported as a “global opt out”, were manually marked as “Do Not Mail”, or had a hard bounce (or 5 soft bounces) when emailed through Pardot.


Anonymous website visitors and identified prospects who have visited your Pardot-tracked assets (landing pages, forms, etc). Anonymous visitors must be associated with an email address before they convert to prospects — in other words, they will not be labeled as prospects unless they fill out a Pardot form on your site.
Are we missing a term or phrase? Share it with us @WholeWhale.

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