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15 Ways to Build Your Nonprofit Mailing List

Building a mailing list whether it’s for B2B or B2C is a key tactic in any organization’s direct marketing tool kit.  In Direct Marketing Tips to Find New Customers, I focused on B2B tactics that successful companies use to find new customers for their direct marketing campaigns.  Today, I wanted to share some ways for colleges/universities, associations, and other organizations to build their nonprofit mailing list.

Continuing to build a robust nonprofit mailing list is more important than ever for nonprofits.  A December 30, 2014 article from the National Council of Nonprofits talked about the up and down trends in funding. These included a decline in government contracts or grants since 2009, late payments from the government, donor retention rate decline to 42 percent, and decline in corporate giving.  As for private philanthropy, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported in an updated article on January 13, 2015 that, “…Americans give, on average, about 3 percent of their income to charity.”

The bottom line is nonprofits, like all businesses, understand the benefits of diversifying the tactics to reach the eyeballs of their target markets. And, with many nonprofits’ acquisition budgets being modest, the following 15 ways to build your nonprofits’ mailing list use a blend of tradition and technology.

Traditional Tactics

  1. Tap your employee and board member connections
    The first level of contacts to get on the mailing list are your employees and board members. They make the best ambassadors for your nonprofit. (You already know this, but I wanted it on the list for newbies to nonprofits.)  Your internal people will keep updated on all events and communications. As important is their ability to forward content to their contacts and invite them to join the mailing list.
  2. Sign-up sheets at special events, conferences, and networking events
    Create eye catching sign-up sheets and position at strategic locations at in-person gatherings.
  3. Custom printed postcards and flyers
    Printed collateral can be used to highlight a message. Include a QR code to link to a landing page on your website with a call to action to opt-in for an e-newsletter.  These can also be strategically placed at events, used as a “leave behind” at meetings, and distributed at networking events.
  4. Collect business cards at presentations
    For those of you who public speak and/or give presentations, solicit business cards at your events. If attending as a guest at presentations, gather business cards. Include a QR code on your own business cards to link to the website as mentioned above.
  5. Request name and email address on all printed forms
    Make it easy for supporters, donors, colleagues, and consumers to give you their contact information. Include a space on all your printed forms for their name, address, or email address.
  6. Direct mail
    The use of direct mail remains a valuable tactic for connecting with donors and can be used for email addresses, too. Peter Panepento, a digital strategy consultant, recently interviewed on the Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio for the podcast segment, “Fundraising in a Multichannel World,” had this to say about direct mail:

“…direct mail, despite rumors otherwise of its demise, is still very popular with donors and still gets a pretty big return.  For organizations with budgets, they are putting money back into direct mail.”

  1. Remind volunteers to join your email list
    Invite volunteers and company representatives of donated goods or services to join your mailing list. Encourage them to share the message of your nonprofit with like-minded people and groups.

Technology Tactics

  1. Always inbound market
    Whether it’s free publicity or paid, always have media mentions direct your target audience to your website.
  2. Opt-in e-newsletter option for website visitors
    Keep it simple. Create a call to action on your high traffic website pages and/or home page to subscribe to your e-newsletter using a name and email.
  3. Share and share alike
    In any of your marketing on your website or social media, invite people to share the content, message, or mission. Encourage e-newsletter subscribers to forward it to their friends and family. Include a link inside the e-newsletter for easy one-step sign up. And, since you will offer the best subscriber-only content, e-newsletters are a great way to gather names for your mailing list.
  4. Offer valuable publications for contact information
    Create premium content your target audience wants. It can be a Q&A interview, white paper, or guidebook.  Website visitors can trade their name and email for the content. Extend the same offer at in-person events, too.  Collect business cards and forward the content with an op-in for the e-newsletter, too.
  5. Sponsor a contest or pass out a petition
    A favorite tactic for building a nonprofit mail list is sponsoring a contest or distributing a petition. Each of these tactics would require signing up using a name and email address.
  6. Use social media to post a “call to action”
    Use your nonprofit’s social media to post a periodic “call to action” to gather names/email addresses for your mailing list. Depending on which social media channel you use, customize the action using a button embed or sponsored content.
  7. Word-of-mouth using peer-to-peer campaigns
    As we all know, word-of-mouth is the most powerful means of spreading our message. The value of peer-to-peer fundraising and/or petition campaigns is the access to audiences outside your nonprofit circles.  New supporters, volunteers, and donors to your organization are added to your mailing list.
  8. Use of data analytics
    If you haven’t already tried this tactic, dig deep into the data in the “real world.” Include data from the digital world provided by your website server reports, Google Analytics, and social media management software.  It will allow you to more easily segment, target, and personalize your messages.

A nonprofit’s mailing list is a valuable resource.  Finding the best tactics to continually grow your mailing list does and will take a lot of hard work.  Have you found some tactics that have produced great results for growing your mailing list?  Please share your tips.

Mike Jais – Partner at Graphics Plus, Inc. & Director of Marketing at Arvin Global Solutions, LLC (


Graphics Plus in Lisle, Illinois provides MARKETING SUPPORT solutions to help organizations create, print, produce and distribute marketing communication messages cost effectively. Visit us at

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More Stories By Ben Bradley

Known for wearing plaid and sweater vests before they were popular, Ben Bradley is managing director of Macon Raine, Inc. ( - a management consulting, marketing and demand generation firm for technology organizations. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and was a member of the undergraduate Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His interests include the intersection of technology and marketing. Because he was never very good at sports and doesn’t have many hobbies, his primary interests include the role of marketing on internal technology adoption, micro-finance, military uses of technology and media, self-organizing networks, network and physical security, collaboration and groupware. He frequently lectures his children on a variety of topics. Bradley was raised in Wheaton, Illinois and currently resides in Glen Ellyn, Illinois with his wife, two children and a purebred Latvian Goathound named Stella.