Tips for Growing Your E-mail List
In a free webinar last month titled "It's All About the List! How to Grow and Cultivate Your Most Valuable Online Asset" sponsored by Network for Good, Justin Perkins, director of nonprofit marketing strategy at Care2, an online community that allows people to sign and send petitions and take a variety of actions on behalf of nonprofit organizations, offered advice to charities interested in building their e-mail lists.
Perkins said nonprofits should put effort into recruiting donors online for a number of reasons. For one thing, more charitable donors are choosing to donate online. Another reason is that donors reached via a variety of different channels — not just direct mail — are the most valuable. Direct mail also isn't as effective with younger donors and is a turn-off for eco-conscious donors. And the Web allows organizations to seize opportunities quickly in reaction to breaking news. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Care2 was able to raise about $200,000 on behalf of American Humane as a result of an e-mail blast it sent out.
According to Perkins, the cycle for converting people into supporters for nonprofits usually goes something like this: A person learns about your organization or issue; this awareness leads her then to recognize your brand in connection with that issue; she grows to trust your organization; because of that developed trust, she responds to an invitation, solicitation, story or action alert you send; she then becomes a member/activist/donor; she has an experience with your organization as a member/activist/donor; she feels a sense of connection with or ownership of the organization; and this leads her to become an ambassador for your organization.
In between each of these stages is an opportunity to lose supporters if you don't continue to cultivate the relationship, i.e., if you don't stay in communication with them. But communication means "not just asking people for money all the time," Perkins said, "but it's giving them a really good reason and compelling reason to be engaged and to donate."