The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Can you give me a few tips for building my email list?

As with most things, the art of enticing new subscribers depends a lot on the kinds of emails you send and the kind of people you’re trying to attract. Realize that by offering tons of enticements to recruit subscribers, you’re likely to get more addresses but wind up with members who may be a bit fickle. Conversely, by understating the value of your emails, or not promoting the signup link enough, your list will likely be made up of very loyal readers, you just won’t have lots of them.

We call this the Inverse Loyalty Curve. Actually we just made the whole ‘Inverse Loyalty Curve’ thing up, but if we were to give it a name, Inverse Loyalty Curve would be it, and before you know it people would be blogging about ‘Inverse Loyalty Curve this’ and ‘Inverse Loyalty Curve that.’ Pretty soon there would be entire books and seminars devoted to it. But back to the matter at hand.

So you want to entice people to join your list? Here are five quick tips:

  1. Why should someone sign up? Tell them. Ask yourself why someone should sign up to get your emails. Is it because they’ll get tips that can help them improve their health, or access to articles before they’re published, or alerts about the environment? And then make your case clearly to prospective subscribers. Don’t just ask them to sign up for your emails; instead, ask them to sign up for your emails to get exclusive, email-only information (or whatever the reward might be).

  2. Ask when they’re most likely to say yes. In life, timing is everything.* So make sure you ask people to join your list when they’re most likely to say yes: after they’ve just made a donation, just filled out a survey for you or when they’ve just read the most fascinating article on your website. So be sure to incorporate your ‘join now’ link and teaser into the parts of your website – and business – where people are most likely to jump at the chance. We call these open-minded moments.

  3. Make it super easy. The people who love you will be perfectly content to fill out three screens of information and take a short survey to join your list. The people who like you may not. So keep your signup process short and sweet. Minimize the clicks, and ask only for the information you truly need (if you’re not planning on using people’s birthdate information later, don’t trouble people for it). And by all means don’t mislead people into thinking the process is short and sweet only to hit them with a 20-minute routine. (You’ve seen signups that ask only for your email address followed by a ‘join’ button – but instead of joining you’re greeted by 20 more fields and a citizenship test.) Make signing up a pleasant, fast experience, and you’ll lose fewer people along the way. (This concept shows up a lot in tips for improving your website in general.)

  4. Offer something in return. It’s possible the content of your emails is reward enough. But you might also consider offering people a bit of instant gratification for joining. Remember that you can customize the thank-you screen that greets new subscribers. Get creative and make the thank-you screen itself a printable coupon to for your next event, or include a link to premium content (say, a download for 10 Ways to Manage Your Diabetes, if your organization is concerned with diabetes).

  5. Above all, keep it simple. MarketingSherpa (a great resource, if you don’t already know them) published the results of a lengthy experiment conducted by the Motley Fool in which a financial content service tested all sorts of signup elements – short teaser text versus a longer list of subscriber benefits, calling it ‘membership’ rather than simply joining a list, offering lots of content choices rather than just one, and so on – to see how it affected their new-subscriber numbers. In the end, Motley Fool found that keeping things simple worked best. (More on this “simple” idea among other email decorum notes here and again as #4 on the list of 10 Tips to Not Get Deleted.)

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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