Grow Your Nonprofit's Email List - No Matter Where You Are!

Whether you are just starting out with creating an email list or if you are ready for more advanced tips, we have you covered.


Every year, about 20 percent of your email list churns – people unsubscribe or their email address no longer works. You gotta grow! Begin with optimization.

Work that website.

Add a sign-up box that lets people enter an email address right on the home page. Put this box on every page. Don’t ask for anything more than email address, first name and last name. Give supporters a reason to join — exclusive content, first looks, never miss an opportunity, etc.

Sign them up at events, and even your lobby!

Try signing people up with a mobile device. Or go old-school and use a sign-up sheet. Be sure to segment in-person signups in your database (note that is where the sign-up happened) so you can personalize future messages to them.

Lure subscribers from social media.

Add a sign up tab to your Facebook page. Many email service providers have an app for that. Once a month (no more), ask your Twitter followers to join your list (show them the benefit).

Deliver email content people really want, on a regular basis!

Great content will get subscribers every time. Be useful, inspiring, timely, valuable, interesting, but most of all, respect your supporters and focus on them, not you. Make your newsletter so special that people can’t wait to share it. This takes more time and resources than you think. Don’t skimp here.

Give them something valuable in exchange for their email address.

Got a guide, an ebook, a special full-length video, or other piece of valuable content? Ask people to sign up to get it! Advertise your awesome piece of content on social networks, print newsletter and online ads.

Use your Google Ad Grant to drive traffic to sign-up pages.

Email acquisition is one of the best uses of your Google Ad Grant. If you’re good at managing Google AdWords, this won’t cost a dime. If not, hire help, even if it’s on a temporary basis. There are several companies specializing in helping nonprofits manage Google Ad Grants.

Now we’re moving beyond free. You’ll need to budget for these tactics.

Try your own list growth campaign. (May require web developer assistance.)

  • Petitions or pledges (pledge to reduce your use of plastics, or a petition to ban fracking)
  • Voting contest (vote for your favorite childhood toy)
  • Sweepstakes (enter to win concert tickets or a trip)
  • Photo caption contest
  • Sign a card (for a hero in your community)
  • Ecard (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Halloween)
  • Quizzes (What kind of sea creature are you? or So you think you know your prostate?)

Paid acquisition.

Run a petition, pledge or other list growth campaign or Care2, but ONLY if you have a welcome series in place to ease these donors into your communications stream, and make an ask of them (donate, take action, come to an event) within the first two months. Otherwise, you are wasting your money.

Use a light-box (aka pop-up) on your website to boost email captures.

This tactic works. You may not personally like it, but it works. Try it for a limited timeframe to support a fundraising, advocacy or awareness campaign. Make the call to action crisp and urgent.

Hire an email detective.

Got a big (over 50k) direct mail file? An email append company will help you find email addresses to match. Explore Fresh Address or Tower Data.


Get Started with Email Acquisition Campaigns: Tactics, Apps and Real-World Examples to Inspire

This 9-page paper includes real-world examples of 3 different kinds of list growth campaigns you can try, and apps other nonprofits have used to grow their email lists (and how you can use them too!).

This download is located in our Free Learning Center. Learn more and get your Customized Training Plan!