How to grow a nonprofit email list and reap the rewards

When it comes to improving your online fundraising campaigns, professional nonprofit emails and a quality list are big factors. If you have beautiful campaigns with engaged subscribers hooked into your events, campaigns, and causes, you’re more likely to grow your presence within the community and collect more donations.

Donating over email is seamless—and donors enjoy receiving updates from organizations they care about. 

So, how can you grow your list effectively so that your nonprofit can speak to more engaged people? How can you ensure your subscribers are the right people—the ones likely to care about your cause, open your emails, and donate?

In this post, we share six clever ways you can engage new donors by growing a quality email list for your organization.

Reminder: Your emails need to provide value

People often come online to receive, not give. When building an email list that wants to engage with your nonprofit organization, you should offer something of value.

What would your ideal donor be interested in? Is your organization geographically focused? Is there a particular demographic you serve? Homing in on these attributes can make you stand out and become easily identifiable to your ideal donor.

Using this information, you can create content that’s specifically targeted. Your relationship with your donors and volunteers should be personalized and memorable.

Email automation and personalized email marketing can help make emails from your nonprofit insanely relevant. These tools allow you to automatically deliver the right messages to the right people, at the right time.

How to grow an effective nonprofit email list

1. Use compelling copy in your signup forms

When writing email copy, your goal is to communicate the value of the offer as clearly as possible. One area where you can amp up your copy? Your email sign up forms.

Boosting list engagement and growth is as simple as a few key changes:

  • Altering the copy to sound less commanding, and more like it’s coming from a friend
  • Clearly identifying the benefits of giving their email address
  • Adding a button with an actionable CTA
  • Setting clear expectations during signup means your subscribers know exactly what to expect from your organization. They will be ready to receive your content with no surprises.

Below, The American Red Cross explains what their email newsletter provides:

nonprofit newsletter signup example

Source: The American Red Cross

2. Design an effective email signup landing page

The most effective signup landing pages look a lot different than you might expect. Many nonprofit landing page “best practices” suggest using large header images, in-line quotations, and minimal copy so that visitors get to the signup form faster.

Many of these “best practices” actually hurt conversion rates and keep organizations from acquiring potential new donors.

Here are thirteen actual best practices from our friends at NextAfter:

  1. Use a linear layout
  2. Use a text-only headline; not a banner image
  3. If you use a background image, make sure it matches your advertising
  4. Add social proof
  5. Write 2-3 short paragraphs of copy to convey your value proposition
  6. Use a primary image, not a video, if it adds clarity or increases continuity
  7. Avoid supporting content in-line with the main content
  8. Add a call-to-action header and copy
  9. Use as few form fields as possible
  10. Group form fields together to reduce page length
  11. Consider adding qualifying questions to increase user’s expectation
  12. For supporting content, use testimonials or endorsements
  13. Add a privacy statement below the submit button

Emma’s customer, The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, uses only a few fields, and what’s more, they provide a detailed preference center for hyper-focused personalization.

email signup landing page example

Discover their story here.

3. Think about thought sequencing

Every time you ask your visitors for something—whether it be a donation or an email signup—you are entering into a conversation. To increase the potential for success, it’s important that this conversation takes place in an effective order.

How we ask for signup permission is not the only thing that matters… the order in which we ask is also important. We want to nurture the visitor through the signup process so they easily understand why joining your list is important, what they’ll receive, and how often they'll hear from you.

Creating an effective flow from the top to the bottom of your opt-in page will allow visitors to sign up to your list with ease.

Implementing a natural, logical sequence using proper permission is essential for a positive sign up experience. 

4. Offer a bonus for joining your list

You can give your new subscribers a bonus “gift” for choosing to join your email list. A bonus offers an appealing incentive that increases the value of becoming an active member of your email list.

A few examples of bonuses you can use are:

  • eBooks
  • White papers
  • Downloads
  • Access to a special resource center
  • Signing a name to a petition
  • Additional resources
  • Articles

You don’t have to wait to create new content. Existing content can be used as a bonus for signing up to your email list. Blog posts, webinars, infographics, and more can be repurposed as ebooks or courses and offered as a way to help grow engagement with the helpful emails you’re sending.

It’s important to maintain an engaged, healthy list with great delivery rates. When using incentives and bonuses to boost signups, be sure to gain clear permission during the signup process and let your new subscribers know exactly which emails they will be receiving from you. This is not only helpful to boost list engagement and sender reputation—in some countries, it’s a requirement.

5. Strategically place your signup form

By featuring your signup form in strategic places, you can increase quality signups to your email list. Pop-ups and slide-outs are a few examples of ways you can draw attention to your signup form.

Types of signup forms:

  • A lightbox popup form. This form grays out the rest of the page and prompts a user to register for your list.
  • A static, in-line signup form. An in-line signup form is shown in the middle of the page and doesn’t move as the visitor scrolls down.
  • A slide-out signup form. This form slides in from the right side of the visitor’s screen.

Whichever form you use, it should be easily visible and engaging for your visitors. For best results, try placing your signup form at the top of the page and testing the various types.

6. Collect emails offline

One of the easiest ways to grow a quality email list, particularly if you’ve been doing offline work, is to import emails with permission from different sources. You can do this through:

  • Direct mail. Add a field where donors can opt-in to your email list when sending donations.
  • Fundraising events. When visitors buy tickets or register for events online, include an email field where they can choose to opt into your list. Or, include an opt-in form on their pledge card if/when they donate.
  • Volunteer training. Feature an email signup sheet at events, whether they’re virtual or in-person.

We suggest sending a welcome email once these subscribers are on your list. The welcome email can continue to engage new subscribers and keep your organization top of mind. Your new subscribers will be reminded that they’ve opted into your email list and have the ability to unsubscribe at any point.

Wrap up

Growing an engaged email list for your nonprofit is not easy. However, by following these six insightful tips, you can boost excitement around your organization and use email to effectively engage donors, volunteers, and more.

Discover what Emma can do for your nonprofit.

About the Author

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our

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