Employ a combination of online and offline strategies to build your e-mail list

To grow your e-mail file effectively, you need to think holistically about your list building efforts. Use both online and offline techniques to steadily build a quality housefile.

Many of the techniques that nonprofits use to build files do not differ drastically from those of corporate entities. However, one of the most important aspects to maintaining and growing a file for a nonprofit is to sustain the relationship by communicating and sharing the impact of their gift, time and talent on the mission of the organization.

Use site opt-ins. When people come directly to your site and opt in, you build a quality list. Make it easy for people to opt in on your homepage or any other page of your Web site by offering more than one place to register.

Don’t stop there. To gather the most information possible about your constituent, offer phased registration. In phase one, get names and e-mail addresses. In phase two, request additional information about the individual that helps build the relationship. Clearly state the benefits to donors and add incentives to increase registrations.

Viral campaigns can be a great way to build your list quickly, particularly when tied to a contest or prize. After a person has registered, encourage them to e-mail their friends with similar interests to sign-up. To ensure you are adding high quality names to your list, offer a giveaway that is relevant to your organization. Otherwise, you’ll end up adding names of uninterested people.

Gather addresses at every interaction. Planned interactions such as renewal appeals, membership drives and event invitations are perfect times to ask for e-mail addresses. Simply add a field for e-mail collection to all response forms. At events where you will interact with a large number of people, consider setting out a newsletter sign-up sheet, or conduct a giveaway for attendees who give you their name and e-mail address.

Regardless of the combination of online and offline techniques that you use, remember to get the individual’s permission before you send e-mails.

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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