Case study

How non-profit charity: water improved their email results with a better email design workflow

Melanie Helgeson speaks about email design / email production choices that helps raising more funds.

Click Through Rate +48% ↑

How did you end up being a designer / developer?

After starting my career in graphic design, I quickly realized that the future was in web development. I enrolled in a six-month boot camp, which led me to a full-stack development role for several years.

Over time, I found myself drawn to UX and product design, so I made the switch. I've had the opportunity to work as a UX designer, product manager, and now, I'm back in a product design role with some front-end engineering responsibilities.

It's been an amazing journey so far, and I'm excited to continue bringing my diverse experiences to every new challenge.

Can you tell me a bit about your primary role and how Charity Water makes the world a better place?

I work for a nonprofit organization called [charity: water] ( Our mission is to provide clear and safe drinking water to people around the world.771 MILLION people worldwide only have access to dirty water. Dirty water that they often walk hours to retrieve. Dirty water that makes them and their families sick. Unlike so many other pressing challenges humans face, like curing cancer or ending poverty, when it comes to ending the water crisis, we actually have the knowledge and technology to do so.

It's truly a matter of getting the right resources to the right people. We do this by raising awareness and inspiring a global community of generous supporters to join us in funding sustainable, community-owned water projects around the world. We work with local partners on the ground to implement all water projects, making sure they are culturally relevant and sustainable.

Transparency has been a core value of ours since our founding, so we have a promise that [100% of all public donations get sent to the field]( (made possible by a generous group of families and private donors who cover all of our operating costs). Once public funds get sent to the field, we post GPS coordinates and photos of every project our community funds.

As a product designer, I'm focused on a few things: 1) connecting people to all the ways they can help end the water crisis, and 2) connecting donors to their impact through personalized reporting. In the past year, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to improving our landing pages and infrastructure, as well as implementing email communication, which is how I found Chamaileon!

What sets us apart is our values, particularly our commitment to transparency. Our 100% model ensures that every donation goes directly to building sustainable water projects, with all operational funding raised separately. This means that every dollar donated goes directly towards making a difference in communities around the world.

Leveraging Chamaileon to update our flagship newsletter template increased clicks by 48% among monthly donors.
non-profit email creation improvement to improve clicks
Melanie Helgeson
Product Design Manager at charity:water

Can you remember how did you create emails before Chamaileon? So what did the process look like?

When I joined Charity Water, our team was in the very beginning stages of transitioning from MailChimp to Iterable, and we were only implementing new emails in Iterable. Our designers came up with designs that were very compelling but were not possible to build with Iterable email editor interface (note: Iterable uses the BEE plug-in) without custom coding. That’s the reason why part of my job description was coding emails. Like not every email needed that, but it was a laborious process. It was 2021, so I didn't feel like I needed to hand-code emails. It didn't take me like incredibly long at first, but long enough that it didn't feel like the ROI was what it should be. Because I was custom coding emails, I had to be really thorough in doing email rendering tests, which was the biggest time suck. I had to spend a lot of time looking at email previews.

How long did it take to create a brand new email or email template?

It would take at least 4 to 6 hours for my part of coding.

After using Chamaileon, I can build an email in usually 20 minutes to an hour depending on the design and then I know I can build it with confidence and knowing that I don't have to do all this crazy email client testing.

Any email I build in Chamaileon renders properly across the different email clients.

We were able to transition to a stage where all designers can build their own emails in Chamialeon. It's not just one person implementing emails anymore.

Because of the efficiency, we're able to do so much more A/B testing because it doesn't take as much lift. We have been able to test a lot of different versions. We ship a test with every single email now, which obviously does increase conversions. We're learning every time we ship an email about what's working and what's not. So that's definitely an added benefit.

What solutions did you try before Chamaileon, and what made you decide in the favor of Chamaileon after your evaluation?

We considered building our own component library like MJML's, which definitely felt like overkill.

I looked at Taxi for Email, but it was pretty expensive.

I also tried Iterable's new built-in editor provided by BEE plug-in.

Chamaileon gave us all of the design functionality that other tools wouldn't and I really liked that it was external.

The deciding factor really was how much time it was going to save especially once I realized we could build our own module (block) library that made building emails so much faster.

Would you recommend Chamaileon to others?

Yeah, I would 100% recommend Chamaileon to other companies.

My biggest value of Chamaileon is the time saved in being able to create emails faster.

I also really appreciate that it's ESP agnostic. It allows us to continue our process even if we transition at another point and the ability to have a component library and I'm excited to see how that continues to grow and help us.

What are your most recent challenges regarding email creation? Are there any new challenges that you see?

Since we can rapidly build emails now we are considering investing more resources into personalization.

I would also like to be able to make sure that everything stays consistent and that I can reuse the same paragraph or button styles over and over again.

I do it currently by saving and reusing blocks as much as possible, but I would expect to have more control over the brand elements in a unified way.


So grateful for you Chamaileon

The team at Chamaileon were so helpful especially at the beginning, answered all my questions, adjusted some of our key blockers and now a year later our whole design team is on-board and ready to build emails on their own. -- Melanie

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