How DO You Grow Your Organization's Email List?

If the email list for your non-profit organization is your base, your source of strength and online power, how do you grow that base of supporters to extend and expand the impact of your work online and off in 2015? Here's some of our tips to help you get the most out of the new year to make a difference on your issues.

First of all, make sure you're making the most of what you already have. Do you have silos of email addresses - past donors in other systems, past volunteer lists, email lists in other CRMs etc. like an old Constant Contact account, or trapped in your website CMS? (P.S. if you're a candidate, go through your personal email address book and LinkedIn profile. More tips here for candidates running for office, or people launching a brand new non-profit.) Gather all that together and import into your chosen mass email software platform. If you don't have a budget, use MailChimp, because it's free for less than 2K email addresses. MailChimp may not be the best tool though if you're planning to use online actions with your supporters and/or raise small dollar donations.

Use social media to build your email list. (some of our collected best tips for persuading your social media followers to join your email list). This is a great inexpensive way to engage your supporters further and also develop a relationship outside of a somewhat capricious tool like Facebook. (Will your supporters see your content in 2015 if you're not paying for views? Only Mark Zuckerberg knows..)

Make the most of your online advocacy as a list-building tool as well as to change the world. Note that you'll generally need a full CRM to take advantage of this, but even if you have no budget you can use tools like MoveOn's petition tool. Also be sure to read our guide for tips on how to make your activism effective instead of simply clictivism.

Don't forget about online (paid) advertising, to add qualified like-minded supporters to your organization or campaign -- whether it be via social media, services like Care2/, or blogs. There are all kinds of like-minded people out there that would love to hear from your organization, if you can find a way to reach them. If you're a c(3) organization, you may be eligible for a Google Grant -- which will get you free advertising on the Google search engine!

There's also a free option out there, partnering with other like-minded organizations or campaigns and doing a joint action or swap. If they work in the same general area as you or you share similar issues, then their supporters may be wanting to hear from you too. But you must be very careful with this technique: once your list is substantially shared with another organization, then there may be all kinds of unforeseen effects. Is the other group or groups going to share it further? Will they treat the list with respect? This is a quick growth source but it can open up your supporters to mistreatment if you are not careful. More about the possible negative network effects.

Also don't forget once you've grown your list, to make sure that your supporters are still getting your emails in their inbox! Read our email list cleaning guide for non-profits for more tips you can use to clean your list and improve your email deliverability.

What methods have worked for your organization online?