5 steps for growing nonprofit email lists

Email marketing performance report

Email marketing can be a critical tactic for nonprofit communication efforts, yet maintaining useful, segmented and active email marketing lists can be challenging. Even the best lists suffer annual decay due to contacts changing addresses, abandoning old accounts, or unqualified leads opting out of communications. These 5 steps for growing nonprofit email lists can help combat the natural losses and build an engaged base of contacts.

Email marketing databases naturally degrade by approximately 22.5% every year. — Hubspot

5 steps for growing nonprofit email lists

1. Enable email signups on your website

Add sign-up opportunities to the nonprofit website. Opportunities include:

  • A clean, sophisticated pop-up offering relevant, valuable content in exchange for a visitor’s email address
  • Explain the value of the content they will receive. Avoid simply saying, “Sign up to receive updates.”
  • A scroll-triggered call-to-action (CTA) that initiates when the reader is engaged and scrolling down the page.
  • An opt-in bar that sticks to the top of the page and follows the visitor’s scroll to encourage visitors to submit their address
  • Leverage existing blogs and articles by reminding visitors to sign up for more of the same (either in the middle or the bottom of the text they are already enjoying)

When collecting contact information on the web it helps to collect the minimum information necessary and make forms short and easily navigable.

2. Leverage social channels

Don’t ask for new subscribers daily on social media. But a monthly tweet to followers and a sign up tab on the Facebook page won’t overdo it. Be sure these social efforts communicate the value of providing an email address. Use an appealing, vibrant image and a simple, succinct CTA.

growing nonprofit email lists twitter

3. Canvass widely

Give new contacts every opportunity to join the nonprofit mailing list:

  • Have a mobile device at events and in the organization’s lobby for contact capture
  • Put links to signup forms on employee email signatures
  • Add a signup or subscribe CTA on primary webpages such as Contact Us, Calendar and About Us.
  • Encourage current subscribers to share a subscription link with their social groups
  • Overlay CTAs for subscriptions on YouTube videos

4. Offer value, relevance

Growing nonprofit email lists is easier with quality content to offer. Give supporters a reason to provide their email address. This can be exclusive access to content, a special opportunity, or registering them for a webinar or offline event.

Other growth campaign opportunities can include:

  • Contests
  • Quizzes
  • Sweepstakes
  • Pledges
  • Positions

Also, ensure that your email content offers value related to the possible reasons they signed up to begin with. Understand your engagement levels by studying open and click rates, as well as conversion data relating to email marketing. Nonprofit marketing efforts need to make frequent use of web analytics and engagement data to improve their communications.

E-mail open rates of U.S. non-profit organizations e-mail marketing in 2010

In 2015, the number of emails sent and received per day total over 205 billion. — Radicati

5. Deliver on promises

The average person receives many daily emails. Make sure that the email your nonprofit is sending is inspiring, useful and timely. Put the readers’ needs first. Before blasting subscribers with a “great email campaign” consider whether the reader will benefit from the information shared. If the nonprofit is the only one gaining from the email, don’t press send.

Between 2015 and 2019 the average number of email accounts per user ratio will grow from an average of 1.7 to 1.9 accounts per user. — Radicati

What not to do in growing nonprofit email lists

Along with these strategies to build email lists, there are two things the nonprofit aiming to grow its email list should avoid.

  1. Don’t purchase an email list. Becoming a spammer is not the way to fulfill your nonprofit’s mission. Because these lists don’t contain loyal customers and friends, they aren’t going to help you accomplish long-term objectives.
  2. Don’t send out emails without permission. Communicating with contacts without permission can lead to spam complaints, a decrease in your open and click through rates, and a damaged reputation.

Before giving in to data decay entirely, one last strategy to consider. The nonprofit can reinvigorate a stale email list with an opt-in campaign. Develop an engaging opt-in message and send it to the old list members to encourage those who wish to remain contacts to re-opt-in while promising to remove all contacts who don’t respond.
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Growing nonprofit email lists sources:

Advice and Tips for Nonprofits on Growing Your Email List. (n.d.). https://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/resources/advice-and-tips-for-nonprofits-on-growing-your-email-list/#1448659606099-02b072eb-a3b7
HubSpot. (n.d.). Database Decay Simulation. https://www.hubspot.com/database-decay
Radicati Group. (2015). Email Statistics Report. https://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Email-Statistics-Report-2015-2019-Executive-Summary.pdf



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