We’ve written in-depth before about various aspects of how to start and grow your supporter email list (with a budget or without!). Now we’re giving you a special holiday gift: putting all our tips together in one comprehensive guide to how to grow your email list for non-profits and political campaigns, for an action-filled 2015. Say you’re starting out from scratch, and you don’t have much of a budget yet. What can you do?
First of all, make sure you’re making the most of what you already have. Do you have silos of email addresses – past donors in ActBlue or NGP or elsewhere, past volunteer lists, email lists in other CRMs etc. like an old Constant Contact account, or trapped in your website CMS? If you’re a candidate, go through your personal email address book and LinkedIn profile. More tips here for candidates running for office.
Gather all that together and import into your chosen mass email software platform. If you don’t have a budget or are using your personal email account for mass email work, use MailChimp to get started, because it’s free for less than 2K email addresses — or Action Network, a very affordable solution for non-profits and campaigns.
Note that if you are tapping very old sources of personal email addresses, you’ll want to do an email verification first or you may have deliverability issues with your ISPs. Paid services like BriteVerify will check to see if the email addresses are still deliverable.
Don’t forget snail mail addresses too! Start with your address book, your Christmas or holiday card list etc. Remember friends, neighbors, former coworkers and alumni from school and other programs. You can always look at a paid email append service through a service like FreshAddress or TowerData/MelissaData later if these are people that would want to hear from you.
Along with email, you should set up social media accounts for your organization or campaign if you haven’t already this year. You can use social media to build your email list, going forward (some of our collected best tips for persuading your social media followers to join your email list). This is a great inexpensive way to engage your supporters further, and also develop a relationship outside of a somewhat capricious tool like Facebook. (Will your supporters see your content in 2015 if you’re not paying for views? Only Mark Zuckerberg knows..) Note that just setting up social media accounts will not drive people to automatically sign up for your email list — you’ll need to reach out and ask people regularly on social media to sign up, and MOST IMPORTANTLY give them reasons to sign up. In this heavy email world, most people will not want to add themselves to yet another email list unless there’s a clear and compelling reason to do so.
While you’re making sure everything is set up and tuned, make sure your website is putting its best face forward. More and more traffic is coming in on mobile devices — for 2015 you’ll want to make sure your site is mobile optimized, or you are leaving supporters behind (and reporters too!). Read our campaign and non-profit website guide to make sure you have a successful website project in 2015.
Make the most of your online advocacy as a list-building tool as well as to change the world. Note that you’ll generally need a full CRM like Salsa to take advantage of this, but even if you have no budget you can use tools like MoveOn’s petition tool. Also be sure to read our guide for tips on how to make your activism effective instead of simply clictivism. Respect your audience or they will stop listening.
Just because you build something, doesn’t mean an audience will discover it automatically. To get growth for your organization, don’t forget about online (paid) advertising. There are lots of great options out there that can add qualified like-minded supporters to your organization or campaign — whether it be via social media, services like Care2/Change.org/LeftAction, or blogs. If you’re a c(3) organization, you may be eligible for a Google Grant — which will get you free advertising on the Google search engine!
There’s also a free option out there, partnering with other like-minded organizations or campaigns and doing a joint action or swap. But you must be very careful with this technique: once your list is substantially shared with another organization, then there may be all kinds of unforeseen effects. Is the other group or groups going to share it further? Will they treat the list with respect? This is a quick growth source but it can open up your supporters to mistreatment if you are not careful. More about the possible negative network effects.
Finally, use it or lose it — be sure to use all the tools in your toolbox to keep them bright and shiny, and your audience enthusiastic and engaged in 2015.
Looking to grow the email list of your non-profit or political campaign in the new year? Contact PowerThru for help.