If you’re in charge of your nonprofit’s email newsletter, you’ve probably given some thought as to how you can grow your list of subscribers. And that’s important, because working to increase the number of your supporters should be done on a routine basis.
But before jumping into specific techniques about how you can increase the number of people signing up for your nonprofit’s email newsletter, it’s important to first consider the issue of spam. If you believe people won’t mind you adding them to your email list without their knowledge simply because you’re doing good things in the world, consider this what lawyers would call your “notice of dissuasion:” plain and simple, you should NEVER add people to your email newsletter without them knowing. It’s a big no-no for all kinds of good reasons, but that’s not what I want to focus on today.
The next thing to know is that when it comes to email lists, size actually isn’t the most important thing to consider! If you have a huge email list filled with thousands of people who don’t care about your cause and delete every email you send, your email efforts will be a waste of time.
The goal is not simply to grow your list — it’s to grow the number of people in your community that you engage with on a regular basis. To grow the number of supporters with whom you’re routinely maintaining relationships. To grow the number of people that give their time or money to support your organization.
But where do you find those kinds of email addresses?
Visitors to your website are already seeking to know your organization better, so that’s a good place to start. It’s important that your online invitation to subscribe is visually appealing and easy to use from any device — remember that many, if not most, visitors may be visiting from a smartphone or tablet. Studies have shown that people always like to get something in return for doing something, even if it’s just signing up for an email newsletter, so any kind of enticement to join can improve sign-up rates. Examples of enticements can include discount coupons, special events for subscribers only, or admission to a webinar.
Now, here’s the crucial thing to know: getting an email address is only the beginning.
When your goal is to find new supporters, a new email address should only be the first step of a multi-tiered cultivation process. Think about it: if you are looking for people to get actively involved with your cause, it’s important that you show an interest in getting actively involved with them.
All this brings us to a project we worked on for our friends at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI). To support efforts to expand their subscriber base, we created an email signup form that integrates with Salesforce, a customer relationship management tool used by BTI. Rather than simply sending a new email directly to the master list, new subscribers receive an engaging welcome note that asks for feedback regarding the areas of interest and involvement they may wish to know more about. This information is received by the person assigned with curating the email list, who can then further personalize and track any future correspondence and support from that individual.
If you’re serious about trying to grow your nonprofit’s email list with meaningful subscribers, it’s not enough to just cast a wide net and hope to draw in as many random addresses as possible. You need the right tools, such as an integrated newsletter signup, and the personnel to curate and follow up appropriately. As the folks over at BTI Plant Research might say, taking the time to care for proper cultivation can lead to a more rewarding harvest!