Ideas for growing your email list

By Russ Reid Digital. This post is part of Russ Reid’s summer resource series. Thanks to one of our Missions partners for recommending this digital tip topic.

Non-profit email lists churn (or experience list attrition) at a rate of about 13-14% a year (source: 2014 eNonprofits Benchmark Study, M+R). Churn includes unsubscribes, bounces, and people who’ve overall stopped seeing your emails because they no longer check the email account you have on file, or your emails are being delivered to their bulk/span folder. Ensuring list growth outpaces list churn is key to ensuring your email list continues to grow.

Ideas for email list growth

Robust Digital Acquisition program – $$,$$$ (but generates a direct donation, not just an email address). We’ve found that one of the single most important factors in email file growth is the health and scale of the digital acquisition program. Acquisition of new donors via digital and integrated channels (where an email is required as part of the donation process) generates the best possible email file, in that these donors are already predisposed to give online, and provide high-quality email addresses in the course of their first transaction. Nothing can equal this approach in terms of building a valuable donor file that is reachable by email in the context of an integrated strategy.

Incentivized email capture: $$$ – $,$$$. Instead of simply asking for an email address, provide the responder an incentive to provide one. This could be an electronic document about hunger or homelessness in your area, a link to engaging video content, or other such content. The idea is to package content and present it in the form of a gift to a responder when they provide your organization with their email address. Promote this offer using light boxes that appear when it seems a visitor is preparing to leave the site, or in static site-wide sign-up fields that appear as part of the site’s footer. Where you might see incentivized email capture regularly used? When email is a required field before downloading a free white paper.

Lead-generation campaign – $,$$$-$$,$$$. Lead generation focuses on acquiring high quality prospects through the targeting of media and messaging. In a current lead generation campaign Russ Reid has developed from strategy to execution for a national partnership of alumni, we will deploy an expansive media effort (including search, display, social, and radio) driving engagement with key messages to fulfill response on a highly engaging campaign microsite. The single aim is conversion of leads (acquiring new email addresses for donor cultivation).

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 12.26.44 PMFacebook “sign up” call to action button – no cost. All non-profit Facebook Pages have the ability to customize your “call-to action” button (placed in your Cover Image on desktop, and as a bar below the Cover Image on mobile). Several options for the call to action button are available but only a few helpful to nonprofits. One such option is “Sign up” (another option is Donate Now if you’ve already joined Facebook’s Donate tools for non-profits agreement). To edit your call to action button, an administrator of your Page must be logged in to Facebook: 1) Go to your Page, 2) where your CTA button currently is placed in the Cover Image, click the carrot/down arrow to “Edit button”, 3) Select “Sign Up” and include the click destination where users should land on your site to sign up for email, 4) Test and save.

generic_website_card_no_callouts-screenshotUse free Twitter website cards – no cost. Although only available through a Twitter ads account, Twitter website cards are free to create and use. Twitter website cards use utilize an ad-like format to promote a page on your website with the aim to grow site traffic and/or drive specific on-site actions (such as donations or email list subscription). Login or register via to create free website cards for your tweets.

Social advertising – $$-$$,$$$. Email list building campaigns can be created with social advertising on all your top used social channels — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. As social advertising has grown in recent years, hyper-targeting abilities have improved including custom audiences and retargeting making social a highly effective and lost cost channel for lead generation of any kind.

Collect email addresses at offline events and activities – no cost. From your annual Gala to Marathon events to welcoming volunteers on a daily basis, collecting the email address of those interested or engaging with you is a free and quality way of growing your email list. Next step: Email strategy to engage these segmented audiences well.

Ensure email capture is a predominate component of the response device. Whether your direct mail response device or your online donation page, ensuring email is a required field for donor response is key to ensuring your email list experiences quality growth of those already giving to you.

E-appends – relatively inexpensive, typically produces a positive ROI. In many cases, a non-profit’s largest list is their direct mail file with a donor’s first name, last name and postal address as the most common known donor information. An e-append involves taking this known donor information and matching it against a third-party vendor’s database to obtain the email address matching the other known donor data. E-appending is then used to reach your current print list through their matched email addresses. What else to know?

  • E-appending grows your email list with a secondary aim to reach donors, who ordinarily receive print communication, through digital means. This may be the right move for your organization if email average gift is higher than that of DM, email conversion rates beat DM, digital long-term donor value is greater, etc.
  • Success is dependent on the quality of both the starting list by the nonprofit and the vendor’s database
  • Guaranteeing data security of your donor’s personal information and their donation information is vital to the e-append process.
  • Russ Reid has conducted a multitude of e-appends with our partners. Average match rate is roughly 30-35% growing email lists by thousands to hundreds of thousands. Key to our strategy is then reaching newly appended recipients with acknowledgement communication, re-engaging lapsed donors, influencing response through trust building and conversion to sustainers.
  • Pricing is based on a match per record.

Network co-registration – $$,$$$ starting; can be costly, but grows lists fast. Co-registration is an upsell to visitors of a site within a publisher’s network who are interested in opting-in to receive additional offers or promotions from advertisers. With one simple step (a checkbox) an advertiser is granted ability to communicate with that user. Because the user is already in a mindset of granting initial permission to the advertiser, they are generally more willing to grant additional permission especially if they feel they will benefit from it. What else to know?

  • Co-registration is an effective tactic to provide steady list growth but requires excellent digital strategy to cultivate and convert these prospects into donors. Prospects acquired through co-registration are likely unfamiliar with your organization and can quickly forget they’ve opted in to hearing from you.
  • Risk: Prospects might provide fictitious email addresses.
  • Russ Reid has leveraged network co-registration to help our partners obtain more than 20,000 email addresses in the span of two months.
  • Cost can range from $0.50 to $1.00 per email with a minimum $10,000 order.

Ideas for diminishing attrition…

Highly engaging and phenomenal email content. It should come as no surprise that creating engaging, thoughtful and useful email content is the #1 way to keep your email recipients interested in receiving your e-communications. Frequency, messaging, and email type are all factors of importance weighing your recipient’s decision to unsubscribe.

Donor impact reporting. Reporting back to your donors with stories and real-life examples of how their donation and actions are making a difference for those you serve is a requirement of good marketing. Building in emails throughout the year that focus specifically on the stewardship and donor impact message must be built in to your email plan. Not sure where to start or want to explore some new, creative ideas for how to execute this message? Talk to us!

Writing for the audience. It’s important to consider segmenting your email list into groups (such as previous donors, new donors, monthly givers, high spenders, etc.) so that each individual’s email content can be personalized to be more effective. The key to good email communication is keeping the messaging short, compelling and relevant to the audience. To be relevant, each email should speak as personally as possible to the recipient so that they feel really known and connected to the organization.

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To connect with Russ Reid Digital and learn more about our Digital expertise and services, contact Andrew Olsen (CFRE, Vice President at Russ Reid) or Steve Harrison (Senior Vice President at Russ Reid).

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