Once you have an ESP, you’ll need to create your mailing list.
If your list is like a garden, permission is the sun: Your list cannot grow without it.
Building a Permission-Based Email List
You want to build a permission-based list, which means that people have given you permission to email them. You do this using what’s called single opt-in or double opt-in.
• If someone signs up for your e-newsletter on your website, and they are instantly put on your mailing list, that’s single opt-in.
• If after they sign up, you send them an automated message that asks them to click on a link to confirm that they want to subscribe, and only then add them to your mailing list, that’s double opt-in.
Single opt-in will build your list more quickly. That’s because a good number of people won’t go find that confirmation email and click on the link. It may go in their spam folders or they may just ignore it, thinking that you are just telling them they’ve been successfully added to your list.
But single opt-in poses several problems. While it will grow your list more quickly, the health, or quality, of your list can really suffer. Here’s why: your sign-up form will eventually get hit by spambots, malicious programs created by spammers to try to get their links onto your website by filling in your web forms. Some spambots intentionally sign up bad email addresses to your list just to be a nuisance. Since ESPs charge based on either the number of records in your database or the number of emails you send, these spambots cost you money.
With double opt-in in place, you’ll only send that one confirmation message to that bad address, it won’t be confirmed since it’s not a real person, and the address won’t actually be added to your mailing list. Depending on your ESP, these addresses will be deleted automatically or you can periodically delete them yourself. The same goes for people who simply type in their email addresses incorrectly. Double opt-in is best, and should be your long-term goal, even if you try single opt-in at first.
Because spam is such a headache for people, email privacy policies are often read more frequently than general privacy policies. A simple, succinct policy will answer this questions: "How will you use my email address?"
Here’s an example how you can customize for your website:
“Your privacy is extremely important to us, and we'll do everything we can to protect it. To that end, our organization maintains an opt-in policy for its email communications. That means we only want to send mail to individuals who have requested that these mailings be sent to them or to people with whom we have an ongoing individual or business relationship.
Your right to control what mailings, if any, you receive from our organization is important to us. Though we may include announcements from partners or other third parties in some mailings, these messages will come directly from us and we will not share your email address with anyone. We will not sell it or rent it, period.”
Moving Your Snail Mail List Online
If you already have a business relationship with a person, it is OK to start emailing them. So if you had a good reason to put them on your print newsletter list (they donated or volunteered, or attended an event, or asked to be put on it), then you can start to email them, too.
Easy Ways to Grow Your Email List
On Your Website
• Put your sign-up form in your website template, so it appears prominently on every single page.
• Offer special downloads, like how-to guides related to your mission. Be clear that when they sign-up for the download, they will also get your e-newsletter.
• Sponsor a fun contest or drawing, and be clear that when they enter, they will also receive your enewsletter.
• Consider letting people segment themselves on the sign-up form by which topics they care about or how often they’d like to be emailed
In Your Email Messages
• Offer great content! Nothing will build your list faster.
• Encourage supporters to update their email addresses themselves (if your system allows it). It’s much better to allow subscribers to update their accounts then to force them to unsubscribe and resubscribe.
• Ask readers to forward your e-newsletter to friends and be sure to include a link to your sign-up form in each edition so those friends can sign-up directly.
• Respect all opt-outs. It’s better to lose a subscriber than to have that person tag you as a spammer.
• Consider linking to your signup form from your personal email signature as well. Your professional network and the folks with whom you regularly communicate may not be on your email list yet.
Segmenting Your List
Where permission is the sun, segmentation is the water.
You can grow plants in the desert, and you can do email marketing without segmentation. But your garden will be much more vibrant and fruitful with water, and so will your email list with segmentation.
Segmenting your list is like creating smaller lists within your main mailing list. For example, you may want to send a monthly e-newsletter to everyone on your list. But you may also segment just your volunteers to receive special updates. You might segment donors who are supporting one particular program and send them e-newsletters with stories just about that program. You might want to send event invitations based on zip codes or how long people have been donating to your organization. These are all ways to segment your list.
Why segment? Because it allows you to create messages that are more targeted and relevant, which means they are more likely to be opened, read, and acted upon.
taken with permission from, The Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide: 7 Steps to Better Email Fundraising & Communications.Written by Kivi Leroux Miller of NonprofitMarketingGuide.com.