If the size and strength of your email list determines how much advocacy you can accomplish, how many volunteers you can recruit and how much money you can raise, it becomes critically important to be able to grow that list. But how do you do that, especially if you don’t have much of a budget (or any budget at all?)
First of all, Do you have silos of email addresses – past donors in a separate database or elsewhere, past volunteer lists, email lists in other CRMs etc. like an old Constant Contact account, or trapped in your website somewhere? More tips here for candidates running for office, or non-profits just getting started.
Don’t forget snail mail addresses too! For candidates, start with your address book, your Christmas or holiday card list etc. Remember friends, neighbors, former coworkers and alumni from school and other programs. For non-profits, perhaps you have old donor lists that lack email addresses, or old volunteer lists etc. 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 – they will take a mailing list you provide and append email addresses to it at a cost (may be 25 cents per or something in that range).
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.
If you are tapping very old sources of email addresses, you’ll want to do an email verification first or you may have deliverability issues with your mass email service provider. Email addresses often go bad after a long period of time (people change jobs, switch providers etc.) Paid services like BriteVerify will check to see if the email addresses are still deliverable. Or you could set up a free MailChimp account (if you have less than 2K emails), and send your first message through that to figure out which addresses are bouncing or still valid. Then import the “good” list into your chosen CRM.
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 the future 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 for your email list, 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. Is there a clear ask to sign up for your email list, and are those email signups going right to your CRM? Read our campaign and non-profit website guide for more on that.
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. Online actions – and especially partnerships with other organizations – are a great way to build your list with like-minded people.
Just because you build something, doesn’t mean an audience will discover it automatically. To get growth for your organization, use online (paid) advertising effectively. There are lots of great options out there that can add qualified like-minded supporters to your organization or campaign — whether it is via social media, paid services like Care2/Change.org, 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!
Partnering with other organizations on a joint online action is a great option for list growth too. 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.
Finally, use it or lose it — be sure to keep sending great regular content out to your list in order to keep your supporters active and engaged.
Looking to grow the email list of your non-profit or political campaign in the new year? Contact PowerThru for help.