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How to Use Email to Grow Your Nonprofit in 2021

Finding new members and donors for your nonprofit organization can sometimes be a challenge - especially if you have a small team or a packed programming agenda. Finding the time to seek out and engage people who might want to join your cause isn’t always feasible when there are events to plan, initiatives to develop, or reports to write. Wearing many hats adds to the excitement of running a nonprofit but it also means leaders are often stretched thin


When I was the executive director of an international membership organization, I focused most of our communication and marketing efforts on messages that would disseminate information or announce opportunities and events. If our tiny team was able to get a few social media posts and a blast email or two out about an upcoming event, we felt fortunate. We were all about the "register now"s and “join today”s. 


Since those days I’ve realized how much we used our email list to push out messages and how little we used it to draw in more support. It was a tool for announcement instead of engagement. And it was for people who were already members, not interested prospects. 


Our approach wasn’t wrong, it simply wasn’t working to its potential.


There were very logical and practical reasons for the way we managed our communications and those reasons were no different from those of other overwhelmed and busy offices: big-picture strategy often takes a back seat to the urgencies of the day. Even if we could see the potential in making a broader plan, the frenetic pace of our operations held us firmly in our groove.


What I know now is that growing our email list and filling it with interested, well-suited prospective members would have actually made our lives easier in the long run. Expanding our community in an intentional, systematic way would have relieved the pressure of our looming membership growth goals. Furthermore, automating our most common email communications would have provided a better membership experience and freed up valuable staff time


With the benefit of hindsight, I can see how simply making better use of our email list could have added so many efficiencies. And that’s why I’ve made it a major focus as I build a consulting business. 


Most of my list-building efforts are centered around four strategies: journeys, freebies, challenges, and quizzes. They are all simple, low cost, and effective at attracting people who want to be involved in what I do. They also happen to be particularly useful for nonprofit organizations of all types. Providing resources, involving people in the mission, educating, and connecting with an audience are all ways that nonprofits can move closer to their vision for the future. And, if more revenues are what you seek, consistent lead generation and donor cultivation need to be a significant parts of your process. 


The tools to pull off these strategies have never been more accessible or easy to use. There are no complicated platforms to buy and no major technology learning curves to suffer through. Find out which list-building strategies could work best for your team during my upcoming “Nonprofit List-Building Boot Camp.” Three dates and times to choose from, click for more info and download a summary of these four tools here.



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