Episode 014 – How Do I Grow My Email List?


By Jeremy Reis

Growing your email list is an essential part of digital marketing for your nonprofit. You will be able to create a new source of donors through adding people who have an affinity for your cause. Adding new email addresses will help replenish people who unsubscribe and also be a source for new donors. In this episode, Jeremy explores several ways you can add new names to your email list.

Full Transcript:

It is a crucial part of your digital marketing to continue adding new email leads into your email file. You want to keep growing your email file for a couple of reasons. One is that you want to nurture those leads to become donors. You’re going to lose people over time as a part of your email file. Even if they’re not unsubscribing, you’re losing them, they’re not reading your messages. It’s really important to clean up your email file over time. Second, the donor journey is not linear. I wish it was. I wish people would come to site, find something they’re passionate about, click to give, make a donation, and become a donor. But it doesn’t happen that way.

In the traditional marketing world, they say it takes 11 to 13 touches before someone resonates with your marketing message. By adding people to your email file, you can touch them via your emails themselves, and also via ads by uploading that list and targeting ads to those people in social media and other places within digital marketing. It’s really important to add emails to your email file to continue growing your digital presence. Today’s question is about the ways in which you can add email to your file. I’m really excited, because we’re going to go through a lot of great ways you can add emails into your email file.

Hi, this is Louise. I am the Communications Director at a medical charity in Chicago. We’ve just started building our email list to find new partners. What are some ways we can build our email list?

Hi, Louise. Thanks so much for your question about how to build your email file. In a couple weeks, I’m gonna be teaching a masterclass right here on this podcast about all of the steps necessary to go from creating ads to identifying your audience to what kind of lead magnets you wanna create, all the way through converting those people to donors. I’m really excited for that masterclass. It’s gonna be a great episode, a long episode, but it’s gonna go into a lot of detail on really digital donor acquisition.

Today, your question about how can I add emails under my email file. It’s really pertinent to that masterclass, and it’s really exciting to go through some of the great ideas that different organizations have used to create what we call lead magnets, or bribes, to get someone to exchange their email address for that particular item.

So most of the time, these are digital premiums where the cost is very much just the production cost of the asset itself, and then perhaps the advertising cost to drive people to find that particular lead magnet.

The important thing to remember is in anything that you’re doing, the offer should be congruent with whatever you’re ask is at the end of the process. So you’re looking for how to build an email list in order to find new supporters or partners. In doing that, whatever you offer up as your lead magnet should be congruent with your ask, and so if you’re going to ask for a particular funding campaign… In your example, you’re a medical charity, so if you were gonna ask to fund cancer research, then you would want whatever the lead magnet to be on the front end to be something that is congruent with that. So perhaps it’s five ways to identify a relative who may have cancer. It may be something along those lines where it’s an asset that really connects someone to where you want them to give to in the future.

When you do things that are not congruent, then what will happen is you’ll spend a lot of money on advertising and to draw those people into those assets, and then at the end of your funnel, you’ll find not a lot of those people will convert, and so it’ll become a negative investment for you really quickly, and I’ve had those experiences, and they are no fun.

So if you’re looking for some examples for what we’ve done at Food For The Hungry, you can head on over to www.fh.org/resources, and you’ll see a number of e-books and other types of downloadables that we’ve created to use as lead magnets to get someone to give us their email address.

So I’m gonna walk through some more ideas beyond just some e-books on things that you can create or things that you can offer people in order to draw them in and to get their email address. All of these different things that it’s really up to your imagination, and what you’re trying to do is to create something that’s really irresistible and something that may seem obvious, but it’s really missed by so many organizations. You wanna create something irresistible that subscribers want. You wanna create something that really adds value to their life. Something that, when you think about the value exchange that someone wants to exchange their email address to receive the asset, there needs to be higher value for them in order to get them to move over that hurdle of you becoming part of their personal ecosystem, you having their email address, and you contacting them in the future, and so whatever it is you’re creating, it needs to have high value that’s congruent with your offer.

You wanna create content that people want to read, that they want to share with other people. Something that’s memorable and something that makes them want to receive more content from you in the future via email.

You also wanna treat this as an exclusive opportunity to give them content, meaning that whatever content you create should be exclusive for that email. When you create exclusive content, then the premium that you’re offering to the email subscriber is that they’re not gonna be able to get this anywhere else, so if you’re taking an ebook and just releasing it out on your website, and then also offering it on the landing page somewhere else, in exchange for an email address, then people will see right through that, and they won’t wanna give you their email address. Doesn’t mean that you have to create exclusive content particular for the piece. Some of our best e-books are multiple blog posts that we’ve combined together and edited a little bit, added some more value to them, put some design around it, and then offered it up as an e-book, so we’ve got e-books on how to teach compassionate giving to your children. Those e-books were originally a series of blog posts, they’ve been edited a bit, added a lit of content to them, but they’ve become really great assets, both for the people that download them, because it’s a tool that they can use to teach their children, but also for us, because it really adds value in terms of numbers of people that wanna subscribe to our email list.

Next thing that you wanna keep in mind is, the easiest way to capture email addresses from people is to add a sign-up form to your website. It’s amazing how many nonprofit websites I go to where they don’t even have a sign-up form on their website. What you wanna offer them on that sign-up form is something more than just sign up to receive your newsletter. I know that we invest a lot of time and value into our newsletters, and we really appreciate being able to create those for the people that support us, but there just isn’t enough value exchange there for someone to want to give you their email address to receive your newsletter.

So you wanna create something that’s got more value than the newsletter in that sign-up form, but you wanna make it so that it’s visible on your website and easy to find. It’s frustrating to go to a site and not even be able to just subscribe to the newsletter when you want it.

Next tip I have for you is to create a call to action on each of your blog posts. So the blog posts are a great source of new email addresses to add to your file. Each of your blog posts should have some sort of related call to action at the bottom. The default call to action should be to sign up for your organization’s email list. You can also create specific premiums related to the blog posts that you have on your site, so it’s not enough anymore to create one single premium that you offer up to people. Instead, people are looking for something that’s really customized and personalized to their interests. So if they come to your site, and they’re reading about a particular medical condition that your charity works with, then you wanna have a premium that’s related to that, and then an offer at the end of the nurture email cycle that is all congruent to the original offer, and so when somebody comes in for a particular blog post, then you wanna create a premium that’s using that content idea, that kind of category, and then that works all the way through down the funnel to the offer, and to the ask that you make at the end when you’re nurturing people via your emails.

You can also create specific premiums for other pages on your site. So if you’ve got pages about specific areas that you serve, then there might be an email sign-up form at the bottom of those, but you can offer up a premium that’s related to that particular piece of content.

Next, you can contribute guest blog posts on other sites that are related to the topic area that you are offering. What we often do when we do guest blog posting is we ask them if they’ll accept and offer to join the email list, in exchange for a premium, and oftentimes, the other site will accept that, because it provides an extra piece of premium content that the person who signs up can receive. Some of them may want to get a copy of those email addresses that sign up through that, and in the past, we’ve had no problem doing that, as we’ve just set up the sign-up that they opt in to allow both us and Food For The Hungry, and then the site where guests blog posting on, to receive the email addresses. So another great tool to get content exposure out there, and provide extra value to those other blogs where you’re providing content beyond just the blog post.

Another powerful way that nonprofits build their email list is by using surveys. There’s kind of two types of surveys within this. One is a survey around the organization and around what work you’re doing, and then the second is around the topic area that you cover, so you might have a survey around the medical conditions that your charity supports. Surveying is an excellent tool. The value of the email address is often less than the value of other types of premiums, and that’s just because surveying is a very easy way for people to sign up for your email list, and thus when you have more people signing up, there’s less friction. Less friction typically means that the value of that email address is less than something that has a little bit greater friction.

Along with surveys, there’s another handy tool that a lot of nonprofits use, and that’s petitions. Petitions are a form of somebody speaking out on a specific topic, and these petitions don’t have to be specific, in that you don’t have to send them on to a specific politician or group, but instead it can be just a petition where people are signing up to support a specific cause or area that your organization supports.

There are a lot of different incentives that you can use to get people to sign up. We’ve called these lead magnets, or bribes, for example, things like a cookbook. These are all digital assets you could create. Of course, we mentioned an e-book. You could use an mp3 if you’ve got any musical artist partners. Maybe a video course where you put together a video course that somebody might have interest in around the topic area that your nonprofit supports. An e-book written by your founder. Email auto-responder series. Maybe it’s a six-part series about a specific topic, or something that people wanna learn. A daily or weekly devotional, if you’re a religious organization, a prayerbook, create a digital book of pictures that people can have from a recent event or from beneficiaries that you support. Whatever premium you create, it should definitely be related to the mission of your organization.

I’ve seen some organizations do things like iPad giveaways, or give away things that aren’t related to their mission. When you do those things, the email addresses that come in are not gonna be very valuable to you over the long term.

There’s also partners out there, other third-party websites, where you can pay them to acquire email leads, typically in exchange for a lead magnet. A lot of these deals will have a cheaper version, or a cheaper way of acquiring leads, and that’s through co-registration, where people sign up for the email list on the particular site, and then that site gives them a bunch of different offers where they can opt in quickly. You’re gonna see a wide range of prices for leads. Typically in the Christian nonprofit donor space, and we like to see leads around two dollars or less per lead, depending on your organization and who the audience is that you are seeking, then you might see a variety of different price points that you can come in.

Co-registration deals are often half, or even less of the cost of acquiring the lead through other ways of advertising, so you might spend 75 cents or a dollar on a lead where a normal lead advertising would cost you two dollars.

Another great way third-party websites… The offer that, again, like we’ve been talking about, all of the offers should be very congruent with what you’re gonna ask them to do at the end of your nurturing series.

Another way to acquire email addresses is at events. Events are a great way to market your nonprofit, and offer different opportunities for people to engage. If you ask for a donation at the event, I would make that the front and center portion of your presentation, but asking for an email address later in the event is a great way to have a backup option for people to sign up if they don’t wanna donate, and then you have an opportunity to create a funnel of emails that’s specialized, personalized to the event that the person was at. So this would allow to then, like I mentioned earlier, where you have eleven different touches necessary to convert somebody. Having this kind of offer after an event will allow someone who was on the fence, didn’t know whether or not they wanted to give, to give at a later date, so events are great way to build a list of people who could have a good interest in what your organization does.

You may host a webinar or an online training of some sort, where you have an expert in your field speak to a group of people who sign up for the event. A webinar could be any length, but it’s typically thirty minutes to an hour long, live event. There’s a number of software solutions out there that allow you to host webinars really easily, and even put presentations up combined with live video. This is a great way to get people who are really passionate about your cause, who have a deep interest in the experts that your organization supports or has at the ready, and so using a webinar to reach those kind of donors or those kind of potential donors brings people on your email list that have a deep interest and understanding of the topic area that your organization supports.

I hope that a few of these ideas resonated with you on ways that you can grow your email file, on unique ways that you could offer people value that will allow them to want to exchange their email address, to get on your email file where you can then nurture them to become supporters of your organization. Thanks a lot for your question, I really appreciate it. Take care.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Nonprofit Answers Podcast. Please take a moment to rate and review this podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcasting service. Your rating and review will help other nonprofit professionals find this podcast to get their nonprofit questions answered.

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