Tips for building an email list

Rebecca Ruby

A philosophical question: If an e-newsletter is powerful enough to move someone to action, but no one’s around to read it, does it make an impact?

If not particularly mind-bending, this inquiry does bring up a valuable and seemingly obvious point.

You can craft a fabulous e-newsletter, send it out just the right number of times per year and impart some really powerful information, but you need to create an email contact list at your organization to be effective.

Here are four tips to get you started on the road to contact-information glory:

1.  Make it easy, compelling and cool for your website visitors to give you their email addresses.

And yes, it can be cool. The majority of people visiting your organization’s website are there on purpose. They may have been searching for your organization in particular, or simply shopping around for a nonprofit with your mission.

Make the sign-up button easy-to-spot, put it “above the fold,” and make your form brief yet informative.  You risk form abandonment if you require or ask for too many pieces of information.

2.  Include “join our email list” everywhere you can.

Once you have your online form, send people there from all directions: your homepage, the signature at the bottom of your email (your everyday contacts may opt in), and other places you have content sprinkled around the Internet, such as blogs and social networking pages.

3.  Use the “people love free stuff” principle. Incentivize.

You’re asking people to give you something (information), and they’re going to wonder what’s in it for them.

4. Make it easy for your current subscribers to hook their friends.

Promote your newsletter and gain new subscribers by asking current subscribers to forward your message along, and consider including a “forward to a friend” link in your message.

Keep in mind that you should always include a subscribe link in your newsletter so people who do receive a forwarded copy have an easy way to get their own copy in the future.

Rebecca Ruby is a marketing specialist with Network for Good, and editor of The Learning Center (

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