Link to your signup page: Going beyond your website, put links to sign up for your newsletter in the emails you send through Constant Contact and in the signatures of your staff email accounts. This way, every message a donor or member gets from you will contain a subtle reminder to join your email list if they haven't done so already. Also, add a join my mailing list (JMML) link to your newsletter to capture the folks that receive your email from a friend, associate or other trusted source via the forward to a friend link.
Promote upcoming issues of your newsletters via social media: Another way to get people to sign up for your mailing list is to provide a teaser for an upcoming mailing on your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. A quick "Want to know more about Topic X? Sign up for our newsletter" with a link to your signup page will compel people to join.
Whether you're asking for an email address face-to-face or online, it's important to set expectations for the person signing up. Give people a visual so they can see what they're signing up to receive. An easy way to accomplish this is to show supporters a recent email, either with a color printout of your newsletter displayed next to your signup book or through links to your email newsletter archive.
When asking someone to join your list in person, phrase the question like this: "Would you like to sign up for our monthly newsletter for upcoming events and other information?" This sets the expectation that those signing up will receive something from you on a monthly basis that contains upcoming event information.
A similar effort should be made online to set expectations appropriately. Tell people when they're signing up exactly what they will be getting and how often. This way, subscribers are not surprised when your first email arrives.
I also recommend that you send a confirmation email to new subscribers joining your email list. The message should reiterate what the recipient has signed up for and include a special "thank you" for being such a loyal supporter. Constant Contact provides an easy way to do this. Link to more info here.
Contacts are a valuable asset
Your list is not going to grow magically without any prodding. Make sure you engage your supporters and members whenever and wherever you come in contact with them -- be it in your office, at an event, on your website, in your regular email correspondence or on your Facebook Fan Page. At every turn, you, your staff, and your digital presence should be politely directing supporters to join your email list.
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