How to Grow Your Email List: 13 Tips that Work

Email marketing offers the highest potential ROI across marketing channels (4x the ROI of social media or direct mail). That is, it can have a high ROI if you can reach a significant audience. And with email marketing for nonprofits, sometimes it can feel like you can make the horse drink, but you can’t bring it to the water: You have solid content and you’ve mastered email open rates, but you aren’t reaching a wider audience. So how do you grow your email list? Read for 13 simple ways to add more subscribers, all tried and true.

1. Optimize your opt-in

Is your email signup hidden, monochromatic, or downplayed in favor of social media buttons? Place your opt-in form or CTA button at the top of the page near primary content, as well as at the bottom of every blog post. Ensure your sign-up button pops off the page by making it a contrasting accent color against your primary brand colors. 

2. Use pop-ups to drive email signups

Even better than a bright button is a mailing list form that magically appears right before your eyes. You can make the form impossible to miss by adding pop-ups to high-traffic and high-exit pages. Through A/B testing, you’ll be able to experiment with what copy, colors, creative, and messaging work best for driving more email subscriptions.

3. Or try out a scroll box

Scroll boxes are similar to pop-ups, but less obtrusive. Experiment with these to see if they pay off for your organization as a lead magnet.

4. Link everywhere

While you’re at it, make sure you link to your newsletter signup page from every landing page on your site. That way, visitors who have just finished reading a page or watching a video will be reminded to sign-up for even more content. You can also consider coding this form into the footer of your website. Boom. 

5. Segment your lists

Good content leads to greater engagement, shares, and buzz. But what’s considered “good” to one person may be less appealing to another. As you continue to grow your email list, note whether your subscribers signed up for your mailing list at an event, through a contest, or just organically. Every subscriber is looking for something different, so create multiple subscription types and send more targeted content to each list to increase the chance that visitors will subscribe to one of them. Because they’ve already shown interest in certain content, they will be more likely to engage with similar future content — and share your newsletter with friends.

6. Give subscribers a reason to sign up

Subscribers want to know what they’ll be getting out of your newsletter before they sign up. Do you send exclusive articles or free whitepapers? Do you host contests or scholarships? Do your email subscribers get advanced access to media or promotions before anyone else? Whatever the incentive is, make sure the content is evergreen (or easily updated) and clearly advertised on the opt-in form so people are enticed to sign up for (and stay on) your list.

7. Use a content locker

Offer upgrades to existing website content with a content locker. This could be numbers 31–50 of a list of 50 resources (the first 30 would be displayed on-site and create incentive), or a download that collects a number of your resources already on-site into one centralized PDF.

8. Create lead-generation ads

Have some budget and still looking for how to build your email list? Create Facebook lead generation ads and use your Google Ad Grant to draw visitors to your email signup page. Consider targeting capabilities on Facebook Audience Insights to better understand the interests of your on-platform audiences, and target to people who follow the same pages or are in the same demographic categories. 

9. Use events (and webinars) as a lead magnet

Hosting an event? Make sure all attendees provide their email address and offer them the option of opting in to your newsletter. Webinars are also great for meeting new audiences and reaching users across time zones. Whether you’re building your list in-person or online, be sure to send a personalized welcome email shortly after the event (within 24 hours is ideal) with any follow-up materials or a link to review video or decks. 

10. Use your social network

Create Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and LinkedIn campaigns to encourage people to sign up for your email list to access those incentives. For example, post an exclusive whitepaper or eBook on LinkedIn that requires an email address to redeem. Add a call-to-action button on your Facebook page, at the end of your YouTube videos, and include your email signup page in your Instagram bio or Linktree. Leverage the power of your social network to build your email list and cross-pollinate your digital marketing channels. 

11. Make friends

Everyone loves a collaborative effort. Contact an industry expert or relevant partner organization to guest-write your newsletter. You can then both promote the exclusive collaboration on social media. You could also host a Twitter chat and advertise your newsletter to build your email list with the chat’s hashtag for wider reach.

12. Retarget your snail mail subscribers

Use a QR code on your printed mailers that links to your email signup page. Or simply include a call in your next snail mail campaign for users to sign up for your email list for added benefits and content.

13. Build trust — not spam

If you want to grow your email list, you also want to make sure you’re keeping it happy and healthy, right? Make sure all CTAs that are intended to drive email signups make it clear that you’ll never spam or sell your users’ information.

Let’s get meta. Get email more tips on how to build your email list and download our email guide below!

“What are email users doing on my site?” asked every nonprofit ever. With Lighthouse by Whole Whale, we’ve created a virtual handshake between your email marketing provider and your Google Analytics to better understand the online activities of high-value email subscribers. Get more information and sign up for a demo at getlighthouse.io.