How DO You Grow Your Non-Profit or Campaign Email List?

Ten Steps

In which regular contributor Laura Packard wraps up your list-building options for the New Year in a nice holiday bow. Read her past articles for, and note that this piece first appeared on the PowerThru Consulting blog.

We’ve written in-depth before about various aspects of how to start and grow your supporter email list (with a budget or without!). Now we’re giving you a gift for the New Year: putting all our tips together in one comprehensive guide to how to grow your email list for non-profits and political campaigns, for an action-filled 2015.

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 ActBlue or NGP or elsewhere, past volunteer lists, email lists in other CRMs etc. like an old Constant Contact account, or trapped in your website CMS? If you’re a candidate, go through your personal email address book and LinkedIn profile. More tips here for candidates running for office. 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, there are lots of great options out there that can add qualified like-minded supporters to your organization or campaign — whether it be via social media, services like Care2/, or blogs. 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. 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.

Ed. note: see also Allyson Goldsmith’s excellent guide to email list swaps from September, 2014.

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Laura Packard
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