Here are ten tips to help you build a compelling permission-based supporter list:
1. Optimize your Website to Encourage Email Sign-Ups
The first thing you must do is offer supporters a compelling reason to hand over their email address. Sometimes offering a free newsletter just isn’t enough. Explain what information you will send them, and be sure you have a good content strategy in place before you do anything. Then you’ll need to optimize your website to make sign-up a breeze! Here’s how:
- Create a prominent “above-the-fold” email sign-up button on your website home page. Visitors shouldn’t have to scroll or navigate around to find it.
- Make sure your email sign-up box appears on every page of your site.
- Use a sign-up incentive such as informative white papers, FAQs, cheat sheets or even a monthly draw.
- Whenever anyone donates or registers for an event, make sure to tell your supporters that they will automatically receive your email newsletter.
2. Offer Flexible Sign-Up Options
Supporters will be more likely to sign-up for emails if they know what content they can expect. A simple way to do this is to segment your emails by giving supporters the option of receiving emails only on the topics they are interested in.
3. Use Offline Events and Direct Mail Appeals to Gather Email Addresses
Don’t forget to solicit emails during events, meetings, presentations, and so on. If people are interested enough in your organization to come to an event, don’t be shy about asking them for their email addresses. Ask for business cards, create a sign-in sheet and ask for email addresses at event registration desks. Also don’t be afraid to go old school and ask for information in your direct mail appeals!
4. Use your Email to Boost Subscriptions
Don’t forget to use your email communications to nurture your community and grow your list:
- Send new subscribers a welcome email that introduces your organization, your cause, and how they can get involved!
- Add social sharing features and “forward to a friend” options so that supporters can share your emails with friends.
- Use analytics to see what email content is working and what isn’t. Are folks unsubscribing? What are they responding to?
- Be sure to communicate with your subscribers regularly - twice a month ideally, once a month at a minimum. This helps to keep your list active, engaged and more likely to grow and support your goals.
Facebook is an important tool to build and grow your supporter community, but it’s not the most reliable way to communicate your most important messages. So how can you use Facebook to grow your email list? Here are a few tricks of the trade:
- Use Page Apps - One way to convert Facebook fans to email subscribers is to use page apps (formerly tabs) to highlight campaigns, initiatives, newsletter sign-ups, or add call-to-actions such as: “Take Action”/ “Join Us”/ “Donate Today” and so on. You can see an example of these page apps at work on these nonprofit pages underneath the main page cover photo: Survival International and Mercy Housing. You can find examples of page apps from Facebook here.
- Use Compelling Content - Encourage fans to subscribe to your email list to get more information about videos, photos, and other updates posted to your Timeline that have a deeper story to tell. If you’re unfamiliar with the new Facebook fan page, this article from the Ad Council explains what it means for nonprofits.
People love competition and free stuff. And, there’s no need to break the bank conducting these contests. Try giving away t-shirts, small gift certificates (think coffee), some of your company’s swag, books, etc. It is an easy and inexpensive way to improve your email list, and hopefully get some legit prospects out of it! (Keep in mind, there are those that will just be in it to win it). Simply put, it’s a give and get: give them free stuff, get their email address.
7. Use all of your Platforms
Your organization (like the rest of us) may use a seemingly infinite number of social channels on which to share your content. Be sure to use all of your channels to reach the different audiences that are on each one. Share your information via social media including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc.
Also, use your blog to share great content and provide sign-up links so your supporters (who love the information you’re sharing) are given the opportunity to give you their email address!
8. Keep it SIMPLE
Make it as simple as possible for your supporters to sign up (whether it’s to attend an event, webinar, or download a whitepaper). Ask for the minimum amount of information you need to not scare off supporters with extensive forms. Make it as straightforward as possible to avoid any confusion.
Don’t be afraid of a little self-promotion! Share with your audience exactly what they will get out of your services and content to encourage them to sign up. Let them know what they will learn and how beneficial it will be to them. Once they know that, they will be more likely to sign up.
10. Let Others Promote for You, Too!
Let other people who are passionate about your mission or cause do some promoting for you, as well. Your organization is limited to your audience, but remember, each of those supporters has relationships of their own (friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, etc.).
- Peer-to-peer fundraising encourages your supporters to raise money from their peers on your organization’s behalf. When a supporter shares a page with their personal network, an organization (hopefully yours!) will be connected to an extended network that they may have not been exposed to otherwise. That’s a whole new audience without you having to do anything! And people are more likely to support an organization that their friends are passionate about, so each new supporter that donates on behalf of a friend can also help to grow your list.
- Reach out to other like-minded organizations and ask them to promote your content. Find organizations or groups that are interested in your cause and ask them to share the content with their audience. It’s a win-win. By giving them the right to promote your content in their email communications (which adds value for their audience), your organization gets exposure to new contacts and email addresses.