Don’t get stuck in a single-channel rut when gathering e-mails from regular donors

We’ve known for a while that donors who give through multiple channels give more frequently and make larger gifts, but now we’re finding that the presence of an e-mail address makes a positive difference in the giving behavior of offline donors.

Ask yourself what steps you’re taking to acquire more e-mail addresses.

On your Web site, make it easy for people to give you their e-mail address. Ideally, there’s a prominent box at the top of your site to enter an e-mail address. The box should be attention-grabbing and on every page of your Web site.

On your direct mail, put a place on the reply form for donors to give e-mail addresses if they wish.

Append e-mail addresses to your donor file. This is the fastest way to jump-start your online efforts. You can generally append 15% to 20% of your donor file with e-mail addresses. Ask e-mail append partners to provide you with nonprofit references. This method has a great ROI, specifically with reactivating lapsed donors and increasing donor value.

Among more advanced options, you can embrace social media. This can be a great method for collecting e-mail addresses.

Another thing to try is Google Ad Words. This is similar to acquisition efforts in direct mail. You’ve identified what your likely donors are searching for and you’re making an investment to bring them on board.

If you have an advocacy element to your organization, co-registration is a great way to build your online advocacy list. Just remember that you are buying advocates — converting them to donors may take time.

Finally, there’s list rental & exchange. Some nonprofits are doing list swaps with similar organizations, inviting people to sign up for future contact. Working with a third party for brokerage and deployment can help ensure your data is secure and you don’t accidentally e-mail an existing donor.

This article originally ran as part of the November 9, 2009 Technique, “Best advice for building nonprofit e-mail lists.” To read the entire feature, click here.

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