Most nonprofits I’ve spoken to find it tough to get new people on their list.
The reason is because people are more hesitant than ever to give up their email addresses these days, since the average person gets 88 emails a day.
Still, I’ve spoken to many small nonprofits that are able to get hundreds of new email subscribers every month in very simple ways.
Take the story of Dr. Samuel Dyer of the Medical Liaison Society. He offered a free salary survey on his website in exchange for an email address and gained over 1,500 new subscribers. He began marketing the benefits of joining his organization to these new subscribers and many became paying members.
What Dr. Samuel did right (and which many more nonprofits are doing right too) was that he offered an incentive (the salary survey) in exchange for an email address.
Incentives are also called freebies, giveaways, bribes, or lead magnets. No matter what you call them, the idea is the same: offer something useful and/or interesting on your website that the subscriber can access immediately after they sign up.
This is the most successful way I’ve seen nonprofits build up their email lists into the thousands.
But finding the right incentive for your audience — something that really makes your audience members want to sign up right away — can be difficult, because what works for one nonprofit doesn’t work for the next.
In this post I’m going to cover the best way you can boost your nonprofit email list by creating an incentive right for you.
The Secret to Creating a Mouthwatering Incentive for Your Nonprofit
When you’re creating your incentive, it’s critical you keep your customers’ needs, wishes, desires, and problems right in the forefront of your mind.
Ask yourself, “What can I create that my audience members will be excited to receive?”
Your goal is to have them look at your incentive offer and say, “Yes, I absolutely must have that!” Your incentive should be so enticing that your audience member doesn’t hesitate to sign up.
The best way to come up with a great incentive idea is to generate a large list of potential options.
Set up a timer for 10 minutes, and write down as many incentive ideas as you can before the timer goes off. Don’t edit your ideas, and don’t throw anything out because it sounds silly or wrong. Your goal is just to write down a bunch of possibilities.
You’re looking for incentives you can create quickly, so think about cheat sheets, short articles, videos, or checklists, rather than 200-page ebooks.
To give your brainstorming a little kick start, here’s a list of 7 ideas for enticing nonprofit incentives you can give away on your website.
1) A Case Study
Do you have a shareable story about a client, member, or recipient you’ve helped recently?
Case studies can be inspirational giveaways for your audience, and they can position your organization in a great light, too.
2) A Toolkit
If you’ve got a collection of useful resources that your subscriber would find interesting (like cheat sheets, blog posts, checklists, videos, or ebooks) you can package them together into helpful toolkit for your audience.
3) A White Paper
Many associations I’ve talked to give away their most popular white paper for free in exchange for an email address. This helps showcase the association’s value to prospective members who visit their website.
4) An Online Course
Many nonprofits hold online workshops or events for their members. If you’re already doing this, offering the recording can be a great way to attract more email subscribers. Simply advertise it on your website, then when someone new emails you, give them access to the recording.
Remember to get the sound quality as high as you can, and make sure there’s interesting and/or useful content in the course – it shouldn’t be one big sales pitch for your organization.
5) Access to a Live Q&A with You
Some nonprofits offer a monthly Q&A where audience members can ask questions that are on their minds. This kind of open Q&A can be a great way to build your authority and bond with your subscribers.
You can offer the live session to your new subscribers, and also send them recordings of previous Q&A sessions right after they sign up for your list.
6) A Cheat Sheet
Everyone wants to do things quickly! Is there a shortcut or “cheat” you can teach your audience that will be useful to them?
People often prefer incentives they can consume quickly, so testing out a cheat sheet can sometimes yield surprisingly high conversion rates!
7) A Checklist
People love checklists. If you can describe the steps of detailed process, you can create a printable checklist for your subscribers.
For more information on creating useful checklists, check out The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.
Finding a Truly Irresistible Email Incentive for Your Nonprofit
I highly recommend testing out a couple of incentives, until you find one freebie that really resonates with your audience members. The proof of course will come when you see a boost to your nonprofit email list.
Pick an idea from your brainstormed list, create that incentive, and advertise it on your site with an opt-in landing page or member registration form. Track the results and see how your audience responds.
When you find the right incentive for your audience, you’ll notice a spike in the amount of new emails you receive.
Overall, my advice is to keep testing out ideas until you find an incentive people can’t wait to sign up for.