Webinar Roundup: Building Your E-mail List
In a Jan. 13 Firstgiving webinar titled "Building Your E-mail List," David Karp, director of marketing for Firstgiving, a site that offers online donation processing services, covered elements surrounding e-mail that every nonprofit fundraiser doing or considering doing e-mail should know.
In this, the first part in a two-part series covering key points from the webinar, we'll touch on Karp's analysis of e-mail basics, key elements of good e-mail, and tips for building and growing your e-mail list. In part two next week, we'll go over Karp's points on how not to be considered spam, how much e-mail is too much, A/B split testing and segmentation.
In terms of basics, Karp reminded attendees that e-mail is cheap — but not free.
"It might come with your Internet service package," Karp said, "but you might have to buy some software, and you certainly have to invest some time to make a good e-mail program carry a good return for your organization."
E-mail is more mass-customizable, trackable and sharable than direct mail — all things that help improve the quality and the reach of your messaging.
Karp's five key elements of a good e-mail are:
- Subject line. "The subject line is the thing that you see before you decide whether or not to open and read the rest of the message," Karp said. "If you don't get someone's attention or interest in that subject line, you're not going to really get a second chance."
- Deliverability. Is your message actually getting through to the people you want to read it, or is it being caught as spam? Be aware of things that can affect deliverability, such as attachments, format, etc.
- Tone, simplicity and clarity. The tone of your e-mail, Karp said, should match the tone of your organization. Speak plainly, and get to the point.
- Specific call to action. What do you want recipients to do? "If you don't have an action in mind for the audience of the e-mail, there's really no reason to expect that they'll do anything at all," he said. Typical calls to action include “visit us on our Web site," "sign up for our webinar" or "donate now." The call to action should be clear, and Karp advises sticking with only one per communication.
- Value. Send recipients something they’re interested in.
If your organization doesn't yet have an e-mail list, you can turn your postal list into an e-mail list by asking for constituents' e-mail addresses by mail. Be sure to stress what constituents will gain by giving you their e-mail addresses.
"It's not, 'Give me your e-mail address.' It's, 'Sign up for our monthly newsletter,'" Karp said. This tells constituents the frequency with which they'll be contacted and the value they'll be receiving.
For those who do give you their e-mail addresses, consider decreasing the amount of direct mail you send them, as some people might sign up for e-communications to save paper.
Karp offers these strategies for nonprofits looking to increase the size of their e-mail lists:
- Adding a "join our mailing list" button to your site, blog, etc.
- If you have a physical location that offers services, or if you're having a special event, have a form that people can fill out and give you their e-mail address. "Don't underestimate the value in collecting e-mail addresses the old-fashioned way, with a clipboard or a postcard," Karp noted.
- Include a place within your e-mail messages for people to give you their e-mail address. The messaging can be, "Make sure that our records are up-to-date" or can be geared towards recipients who aren't on your list and whose friends forwarded them the message.