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Does your organization struggle to grow your email list?

Having a robust email list can be a tremendous (and repeatable) source of donations, volunteers, and partners for a non-profit organization. 

But simply having a form on your website for people to enter their email address doesn’t work. Even if you are getting tons of traffic to that page, it is probably a minuscule fraction of the page visitors that actually leave their email address. 

So how do you convince people to give you their email address?

The answer is that you need to give them something valuable in return. 

So follow this 5 step process and you’ll be growing your email list in no time.

1. Get An Email List Service

Are you still using a spreadsheet to keep track of your supporters and Gmail to send them messages? 

If you are then you’re 1) wasting time and 2) ignoring a huge group of people that might be interested in your organization. 

You need an email list service. 

An email service is a software solution that collects emails (and accompanying identification information), stores that information in a categorized database, and let’s you send email messages to all or specific segments of that list. 

There are a lot of options out there. If you are small and just getting started, then I recommend MailChimp. Why? It’s free and it’s really good!

If you have a large audience and a budget to spend on this sort of thing, then I’d recommend Convert Kit. Convert Kit has very sophisticated tagging and sorting features and integrates well with many other pieces of business software on the market. 

2. Create An Opt In On Your Web Page

This step you may already have in place if you have a form on your website for people to leave their email address. 

The important part here is that you have it connected in some way to your email service. You want anyone filling out this form to be automatically added to your email list. 

How you accomplish this can vary depending on the email service you use, the website management software you have in place, and how you promote your email list. 

3. Use A “Lead Magnet” To Encourage People To Opt In

This is the “something valuable” that you need to give people in return for giving you their email address. 

A lead magnet can take many forms but it needs to be something that your target audience will find valuable. It can be an ebook download, a list of resources, or even access to a video training course. It just has to be 1) valuable and 2) free for anyone that leaves their email address. 

One common mistakes people make when creating a lead magnet is to give something that is incomplete and then trying to get people to pay money or donate to get the rest of it. This comes across as sneaky and dishonest. If you promise them a guide on how to do something, then you need to deliver on that and give them something that they can use without paying more. 

In my opinion, the best lead magnets are those that are built right into your email list. 

What I mean by that is having the guide consist of a series of emails rather than a single download. There are a few benefits to that approach. 

  1. It gets the recipient to open the emails you are sending them. This tells their email server that they like your emails. Which means it won’t think you are spam. That increases the number of your emails that are getting to their destination. 
  2. It “trains” the recipient to open your emails for the future. They will get used to getting valuable content from you so they are more likely to open later emails you send after they get the thing you promised them. 
  3. It builds trust and rapport with your audience. Rather than just having a PDF you sent them, they feel like you are communicating directly to them. That helps build a connection and they are more likely to be an active member of your audience, whether that means donating, volunteering, or sharing your content with others. 
  4. Emails are much easier to forward. If they think the content is super valuable, all they have to do is click “forward” and they can send it to as many people as they want. It may seem simple to attach a PDF to an email and send it off, but that one extra step can stop a lot of potential sharing. 
  5. They’ll always have it. How many times have you downloaded a PDF and forgotten where it was? If you are including the valuable information in the email itself, all they have to do is search their email inbox for a few key words. 

Not every lead magnet HAS to be an email sequence, but it is an easy and effective way to start. 

4. Promote Your Lead Magnet

Your audience is limited, so how do you get this in front of people that are likely to want it?

The fastest and most effective way to do this is through paid ads.

I would recommend Facebook ads for a few reasons:

  1. It’s quick and relatively easy. Facebook ads can do a lot of things and get very complicated, but if all you want to do is send people to a single web page to collect their email and give them something, its not hard. 
  2. Facebook ads are incredibly targeted. You know your audience better than anyone. Facebook has a very comprehensive targeting system that lets you target based on geography, age, gender, age, and even interests. The more effective your targeting is, the more results you get for your money. 
  3. On the subject of money…Facebook ads can be as low or high cost as your budget allows. You can run an entire ad set for a dollar a day and still reach a few hundred people every day. Compare that to a newspaper ad that costs hundreds of dollars that may or may not be seen by anyone who cares. 
  4. Most importantly, Facebook ads are easy to scale up. Once you have a system in place and you know that for every $1 of ads spending, you can generate enough additions to your list to produce $2 in donations…all you have to do is keep increasing the ad spend and see if the ratio holds true. If you do it right, it can be like putting a dollar into a vending machine and getting $2 out…over and over again.  

This isn’t a post about running ads so we will leave it at that. But if you want to see a future post about creating Facebook ads, leave a comment below and let us know. 

No matter how you do it, you should focus a good chunk of your advertising budget on getting people to your lead magnet. Sending ads to people that have never heard of you and simply asking them to attend an event or donate money is largely a waste of time. Even if it is sometimes successful, you will need to throw a ton of money and reach a ton of people in order to get a return (and the margins will be slim). 

But it’s an easy sell to have someone trade their email address for something useful. Then you work on giving them more valuable content. This is call nurturing a lead. 

Over time (it could be days, weeks, or even months) that lead will become familiar with your organization, they will start to feel like they know you, and then when you promote an event or ask for a donation, your rate of success will be much much higher. 

5. Provide Quality Content For Your Subscribers

Don’t stop with the lead magnet. 

If you want an active and healthy email list then you need to continue to give them value. “Value” can take many forms. It can be informational like we described above. But value can also be entertainment, conversation, news. 

And Now, An Example…

In case you wanted to see how this all works, just look below. You can sign up to be a part of our Charity Coalition. All we need is your email address and you’ll useful tips and tactics like this delivered right to your inbox!

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If you are part of a non-profit or charity, leave your name and email and we will add you to our charity coalition. You’ll receive emails with useful information like the one above as well as regular newsletters, announcements of about fundraising opportunities for your organization, and periodic newsletters from us. 

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