5 ways grow your email list

by guest blogger Brian Tucker, Director of Digital Strategy at TrueSense Marketing

When I was young, my grandmother gave me an orange tree. At first, I was excited to have my own oranges straight from the backyard. The tree was planted in the perfect spot, and I watered it every day. The tree began to grow. But then I lost interest, and watered it less frequently. The tree produced one sad little orange. Without proper care, it didn’t stand a chance.

Sadly, many nonprofit organizations treat their email files the same way. Initially, the plan is executed with excitement. But as time goes on, competing priorities take precedence. The email file becomes just like my unattended fruit tree: useless.

You can no longer ignore the importance of email in your overall fundraising strategy. Donor preferences are changing, direct mail acquisition is getting more expensive, and growing a strong file takes time. Here are some ideas:

#1: Use Your Website

Give your email signup prime placement above the fold, and make it visually distinctive from the donate button. Depending on your site layout, also try testing the position of your email signup by placing it under the main hero image.

Another homepage tactic (if your CMS allows it) is to have a lightbox with an email signup for new visitors. While this can be effective, I would strongly advise against this or any other tactic that could be a distraction during year-end giving!

#2: Offer an Incentive

The standard offer, “sign up to receive our newsletter,” may no longer be enough. We all feel like we receive too much email. According to a recent study, the volume of email received is the #1 cause of losing subscribers. It’s worth it to think about offering an incentive to new subscribers.

Possible incentives could include:


  • Special promotional sweepstakes offers
  • Limited access to a special fundraising or advocacy initiative
  • Useful information in the form of a digital booklet

#3: Use Technology

Ipads and Android tablets have become a fixture in our lives, and they can become mobile capture devices for your event.

I’ve had great success with iCapture. It is an app that allows you to build custom forms to collect just about any piece of data you could imagine. It also provides automatic syncing to many popular email programs and allows for offline data capture. No Wi-Fi needed! If you use MailChimp, the Chimpadeedoo app has you covered.

If you are having a large event, don’t forget mobile SMS acquisition. Using a platform such as MobileCause will allow you to capture emails and set up campaigns with just a few clicks.

#4: ASK!

Don’t ask, don’t get. We know how to ask for money, but many are still shy to ask for an email address! A few simple tactics can truly jump-start your file:


  • Have volunteers provide their emails when signing up.
  • Put a buckslip in your direct mail receipts with a special signup URL.
  • Ask your fans on social media sites, and tell them to ask their friends.
  • Have your event/development staff take an iPad or iPhone with them to speaking events.
  • Have your front desk staff ask every person who comes in the door.

#5: Give Choices

If your system allows it, develop a “preference center” through which people can choose the types of communications they receive. Possible categories could include:


  • Newsletters
  • Project-specific information
  • Emergency response information

You know your donors best. So feel free to develop your own categories.


Comments

6 responses to “5 ways grow your email list”

  1. Shirley Ann Avatar
    Shirley Ann

    Another great marketing, email, online giving platform to use is https://www.continuetogive.com/ They offer mobile, Facebook, Kiosk, and Online giving. They have a great text option that you can use plus a great email donate button that can go on your e-newsletters.
    They also have a “Follow” system that links up to your blog and giving platform. It’s a very good program for marketing your fundraiser.

  2. Shirley Ann Avatar
    Shirley Ann

    Another great marketing, email, online giving platform to use is https://www.continuetogive.com/ They offer mobile, Facebook, Kiosk, and Online giving. They have a great text option that you can use plus a great email donate button that can go on your e-newsletters.
    They also have a “Follow” system that links up to your blog and giving platform. It’s a very good program for marketing your fundraiser.

  3. Are their any poverty-alleviation based organizations that you would recommend following who model these principles well?

  4. Are their any poverty-alleviation based organizations that you would recommend following who model these principles well?

  5. Hi Amanda! Their are several organizations that follow most of these principles well but it might be hard to list one that is doing all of them at the same time.
    Care (http://care.org) Does a great job of having their email asks at the very top of the page.
    World Vision (http://worldvision.org) has a great communications preference center and they are always adding options in terms of subscription and communication preferences. They always allowed them by dialing the call center, but are moving to a self-managed approach. They are also very good at gathering emails at concerts and other events. (Full disclosure, I was an employee of World Vision for about 6 years).
    I would also say that I would approach any campaign/technique from an organization with curiosity and not always take it as “the best way”, even from large organizations. Spending time on the nonprofit employee side I’ve found that web marketing can be a political space with multiple priorities competing for prime real-estate. Thus, certain initiatives (like email acquisition) can get deprioritized for other campaigns.
    Recently, the Seattle Union Gospel Mission ( http://www.ugm.org) did a great job of an email acquisition campaign on social media. By providing your email you “donated” a meal with a value of about $1.92. The mission was able to secure a gift from a major donor to help fund that effort.
    I generally keep a notebook in Evernote with a list of links and screenshots that I can later reference when I come along a good campaign idea. With a little tweaking you never know what might work for YOUR organization!

  6. Hi Amanda! Their are several organizations that follow most of these principles well but it might be hard to list one that is doing all of them at the same time.
    Care (http://care.org) Does a great job of having their email asks at the very top of the page.
    World Vision (http://worldvision.org) has a great communications preference center and they are always adding options in terms of subscription and communication preferences. They always allowed them by dialing the call center, but are moving to a self-managed approach. They are also very good at gathering emails at concerts and other events. (Full disclosure, I was an employee of World Vision for about 6 years).
    I would also say that I would approach any campaign/technique from an organization with curiosity and not always take it as “the best way”, even from large organizations. Spending time on the nonprofit employee side I’ve found that web marketing can be a political space with multiple priorities competing for prime real-estate. Thus, certain initiatives (like email acquisition) can get deprioritized for other campaigns.
    Recently, the Seattle Union Gospel Mission ( http://www.ugm.org) did a great job of an email acquisition campaign on social media. By providing your email you “donated” a meal with a value of about $1.92. The mission was able to secure a gift from a major donor to help fund that effort.
    I generally keep a notebook in Evernote with a list of links and screenshots that I can later reference when I come along a good campaign idea. With a little tweaking you never know what might work for YOUR organization!

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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