Nonprofit marketing directors know that a good email list is essential to gaining and utilizing donors and supporters. But getting people to hand over their email address is only the first challenge. You also need to keep them around. And in today’s atmosphere of competing interests and overflowing inboxes, that can be tricky. So how do nonprofits get people to sign up and keep them subscribed?
Here are my nine easy tips for growing and maintaining a nonprofit email list.
1. Utilize your website: This may seem obvious, but too many nonprofits overlook the power of website sign ups. Everyone who comes to your website looking for information about your cause or niche is a potential donor. The same goes for your social media accounts. These are the people who are most interested in what you do. Give them an opportunity to sign up! Put a sign up box in your site’s sidebar, as well as a pop-up box that all users see before they close the screen. Use the “take action” button on your Facebook page to get supporters to sign up for your list, and periodically remind your followers on Twitter and Instagram that you have an email list. Be sure to tell them why they should sign up!
2. Don’t forget your own email: Make sure your email signature includes a link to your email marketing sign up form. Every email you send should encourage the recipient to sign up.
3. Start a blog: Blogging is the future of online marketing. With a blog, your organization can build your email list, engage an audience of passionate supporters, educate the public about your cause or niche, and give people a reason to donate or volunteer.
There’s a reason that blogging is so popular today. In the US, 38% of adults get most of their news online, with about half of all adults ages 18-49 falling into that category. 80% of online consumers trust the information they read in blogs, and companies with blogs get a whopping 97% more inbound links to their websites, which increases your domain authority and drives more traffic to your site.
But the most important blogging statistic for nonprofit marketers is this: Organizations with blogs generate 67% more leads than those without. For nonprofits, this means that a blog can be crucial to getting your visitors to click on that “subscribe now” button. If you don’t have the staff resources or the writing skills to publish multiple blog posts with some frequency, hire a freelance writer to do it. (Shameless plug: I can help you with this. Check out my business page.)
4. Get involved in other blogs and forums: What other nonprofits work on your issue, or something similar? Do they have a blog? A Facebook page? Some other type of online discussion group? Get in there and make some comments! You need to be where your potential supporters will see you, and if you can offer useful, educational information in these forums, people will view you as a leader in your niche, and they’ll be more likely to come to you in the future. Just make sure to include a link to your website where visitors will find an opt-in form.
5. Give your readers the content they crave: Once people have signed up for your list, you have to email them. I know that it seems risky. When people are getting too many emails from a particular source, they might unsubscribe. But I’ve got news for you–those people weren’t your true supporters. If they are interested in what you have to say, and if you are delivering interesting content, they will continue to read it.
So write something worth reading, and send it out at least once a week. This means that you have to do more than just ask for money or action. You also have to educate and entertain. Again, this is where a freelance writer can help. If you don’t have creative writers on your team, or your staff is just too busy to put together engaging email content, hire someone to do it. You won’t be sorry!
6. Give them freebies in exchange for their email addresses: Do you have an e-book? A video? Printable worksheets? An educational report on your issue? Ask your audience to input their email address in order to receive it!
Most email marketing services, like Constant Contact, ConvertKit, and Mail Chimp, allow you to categorize your subscribers according to how they signed up and what they asked to receive from you. After sign up, your supporters will automatically receive an email with whatever freebie they requested attached. Easy peasy!
7. Try some of these popular list-building tools: Make a quiz about your organization’s issue, or start a petition. Hold a voting or photo caption contest. Ask your audience to sign a card for a hero in your community. Just make sure to tell people that by entering their email address, they are also signing up for your list. And again, if you need help creating any of these tools, a freelancer can help!
8. Encourage forwarding and social media sharing: This can be as simple as including a “forward to a friend” button and social share buttons in every email. But if you want your readers to share, you need valuable content. Research shows that 92% of people who share an article online do so because they think it will be useful to others. The bottom line–if you create valuable content, and you make sharing easy, your supporters will advertise it for you.
9. Give them subscription options: People like choices. If your nonprofit provides a variety of services and resources, let your supporters sign up to receive tailored content according to their interests. For example, if you run an environmental charity aimed at improving air and water quality, you might conduct scientific research, advocate for environmental policies, and educate the public on your cause. Create an opt-in form that lets subscribers choose which of these activities they want to be informed about. When people are looking at a list of choices, something almost magical happens. They’re no longer thinking, “should I sign up?” but rather, “which option should I sign up for?”
Are you a nonprofit marketing director? What are your tools for building and maintaining your email list? I’d love to hear from you!
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