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Why Building an Email List for Fundraising is Critical: And 5 Tips to Get Started

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Why Building an Email List for Fundraising is Critical: And 5 Tips to Get Started
Written By: Stephane Boss ~ 1/25/2016

Email List For Fundraising Is The One Thing you should start doing – And 5 tips to get started

I am always surprised about how much time organizations spend on updating their social networks instead of building an email list for fundraising.

Of course tools like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram should be part of your outreach strategy. But there is only one that you totally own and that’s your email list.

You’ve already noticed that only 2-5% of your audience on Facebook actually see your posts unless you pay.

When you send out an email blast (if you don’t you should), look at the open rate (number of people opening your email versus the number of email sent). I won’t be surprised if it is about 18%-23%.

Sometimes 5% on Facebook is more than 30% from your email list. I know. Still, Facebook and the alike can change their algorithm overnight, and they actually do, and you are back to square one.

Believe me, if you should be focusing on one or two things when it comes to reaching out to your audience, it is to build and activate your email list fundraising!

In this blog post I will review some of the reasons why it is critical to build and maintain a healthy email list especially when it is time to raise funds for your organization. I will also share with you five tips to get started.

If you’re fundraising for a non-profit, a school, your church or another organization, or even for a project on a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, an email list comprised of people who are likely to donate to your cause is a valuable asset that will help you meet your fundraising goals faster and with less effort.

Two ways (actually one), to develop an email list

There are two ways you can develop an email list for fundraising – you can build your own list, or you can purchase a list (there are dozens of companies which sell mailing lists featuring pre-screened target audiences; for most fundraising efforts, you should be able to find a list for sale that reflects the demographic you’re trying to reach.)

But for many reasons – and not just the cost difference – it’s almost always better to have a list you’ve built yourself.

The reason is simple:

When your list consists of people who have already shown an interest in your cause – for example by donating previously, signing up for your email newsletter, or buying a ticket for a raffle that benefited your organization – you’ve pre-screened to find the people who are most likely to donate to your cause in the future.

Who is more likely to donate to a local school – the neighbors who are probably tired of parents taking up all the car parks on their street, or the parents who send their children to your school, and the alumni who’ve already graduated? The answer is the parents and alumni, of course, because they’ve shown a clear and direct interest in your school by enrolling their children there or studying there themselves.

With an email list for fundraising of potential donors who have been pre-qualified in this manner, you can expect a much higher conversion rate when you send an email soliciting donations or asking people to take another step (for example, viewing your project page on a crowdfunding site – and hopefully deciding to donate once they do.) A list you’ve bought online is more likely to include people who have no interest in your cause, especially if you’re a small, local organization (like a home for the elderly or a neighborhood church) and the list you buy isn’t specifically targeted to your immediate local area.

Use your list judiciously

Once you have a list, use it judiciously – don’t ask for donations constantly or people will unsubscribe, and make sure after a fundraising drive you always thank the list and let people know how much was donated and what that means in tangible terms (for example, $3000 for a large preschool might mean 20 new picture books for each classroom.) Use for list for occasional solicitations, one or two updates during each fundraising drive, and then a final thank you and summary of the results – not for endless requests for more cash. Then you’ll have happy donors and a highly valuable fundraising tool.

So, if you should be doing one thing it is to build and grow your email list for fundraising. Next time you are on Facebook posting and getting frustrated by the amount of view you get; consider sending out an email blast to your fans instead.

Now that you understand the importance of building an email list, here is a list of providers you might want to consider. Please note that we are not affiliated with any of them. Here are two that are worth trying out.

At BYDFAULT, we use mailchimp because it’s free to for the first 2,000 emails sent a month and the drag and drop feature makes it really easy to use. The auto responder feature is definitely a plus.

You might also want to consider Klaviyo. A more elaborated platform that gives you more ways to personalize emails and target specific audiences. Also integrates well with many other tools you already use such as shopping cart, CRM… It is free up to 250 contacts / 500 email sends.

5 Tips to Building an Email List for Nonprofits

Here are five tips for building an email list for nonprofits that will help you raise funds for your mission:

  1. Start with your base. If you’re a school or a church, that means your parents or parishioners. If you’re raising funds through a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, that means your friends and family members. These people are already loyal to you and are most likely to read emails from you asking for donations or other actions (for example, to view a project on a crowdfunding page.)
  2. Add all your previous donors. If people have given to your cause before, that means they must care about it at least a little – and they’re likely to open their wallets again if you send a well-timed email pitch to them.
  3. Treat your “whales” and “frequent flyers” like they’re special (because they are.) In the world of casinos and nightclubs, “whales” are the people who can be counted on to spend, and spend big. If you have any donors who have given large sums in the past or donate to your cause frequently, make a special list for each. Then you can send them a more targeted message – asking for more money from the “whales,” and sending fundraising emails more often to people who are already in the habit of giving frequently. These two groups can account for a majority of your donations, so it pays to treat them like the VIPs they are. You should create a specific segment for this audience into your email platform.
  4. Collect emails everywhere you can. No sign up form on your website? You’re missing out on a way to build your email list. Don’t demand a name and email address when you sell or give out raffle tickets, or host an event like a fun run? Start requiring at least a name and email address from every participant. You can’t build an email list unless you’re actively seeking out every possible potential donor.If you are using mailchimp and have an iPad or Android tablet, start collecting emails using Chimpadeedo. That’s a great to collect accurate emails and add them directly to your existing list.
  5. Sweeten the deal. People will sign up for your list when they might win a prize (it doesn’t even need to be expensive) or when there’s some kind of competition involved (the class that raises the most for the school book drive wins a special party.) Create incentives for people to hand over their details and people will be more receptive to signing up for yet another email list.
  6. Bonus tip. Content is king! When you help your audience solve a problem or learn something you become a problem solver, you build trust and become legitimate. People are always keen to learn something that will help them make their life easier. Think of a guide to help parents with their children’ homework if you are a nonprofit in the education field. If you support the arts, sharing how to guides can also make sense, if you are an animal shelter providing tips on how to potty train your pet can be priceless… in exchange of people’s email address. Think of it as a series of articles you send new subscribers after they join (using auto responders).

Of course what works best about email marketing is to actually implement these tips. They do work! I am sure you can find hundreds of articles on that topic but the key is actually to implement these tips because they actually work.

What other tips would you add to that list to build and grow an email list?

What’s your best practice?

Next article will be about the 5 tips about how to use your email list for fundraising and increase donations.

You can subscribe to our mailing list to access the 5 Ways to Use an Email List for Fundraising before anyone else. Does that make sense?

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