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Episode 33: Unlock the Potential of Your Email List

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In this episode, we are talking about the power of email. 

I know, you might think you need to put all of your eggs in the social media basket but let me tell you why you should give your email list – or lists – the attention they deserve.

Email is a quick and easy way to get your nonprofit’s name right in front of your donors and supporters, or the people you want to serve. Even if they don’t OPEN your email, they are still seeing your nonprofit’s name. You are reminding them about your organization, and showing them that your nonprofit is alive and active.

Second, email is pretty dang easy! Think about it – all you need is a short paragraph or two with a picture or your nonprofit’s logo and BAM! You’ve got an email that you can send right to a targeted audience.

Email is starting to sound better and better right? 

Email should absolutely be part of your focus for your nonprofit’s marketing plan.

Today, we’re going in-depth about how to grow and use your email list to its full potential. And I’m sharing my favorite free email tools so you can send out great looking emails easily, plus, you’ll get a few tips for ways to keep growing your list and actually get people to open your emails.

Five hours a day. FIVE. A recent survey found that in 2019, most consumers reported that they spent about five hours a day checking email.

If you’re thinking that’s just a certain crowd of an older generation, let’s blow your mind with this – almost 1/3 of Millennials and Gen Z say they check their personal email accounts multiple times per hour. They are looking at their inbox while in bed in the morning and at night, at work, while eating, driving, in the bathroom, watching TV – basically, all the time. So if you thought social media is the only way to reach young people, think again. Email has an incredible presence in the lives of people of all generations. 

That’s all great news for marketing, right? But what if you don’t have an email list or you have one but it’s not very big?

Start building. Here’s the simplest, most straightforward way to start building your email lists:

Gather email addresses at your events – no matter how big or small. 

  • Get a clipboard and a spreadsheet where people can fill in their name and email address. That’s it. 
  • Asking for too much information will scare people off. 
  • Have one of your volunteers be in charge of asking people if they’d like to keep in touch and hear about your nonprofit’s upcoming events via email,
  • No volunteer? At least have the clipboard in an obvious, easily accessible place for people to sign up by themselves.

It sounds simple but gathering email addresses at your events can grow your email list overnight!

Another way to grow your list is to have an opt-in or sign up option on your website or your blog. 

  • Use social media to encourage people to sign up on your website to receive email updates about the latest news and updates with your nonprofit. 
  • Make sure to get the email addresses of the people you serve as they come in your door
  • Absolutely collect the email addresses of your donors, potential donors, supporters and volunteers.

There are lots of different ways to start gathering email addresses, but I’ll tell you one way to get people to unsubscribe FAST – using phrases like “Sign up for our e-blasts!” No one wants to feel like they’re being spammed.

Here are a few ways to keep growing your list and actually get people to open your emails:

  1. Use great attention to detail. One of the most reported reasons people choose to unsubscribe from email lists is because the emails feel spammy or like the sender just doesn’t care. Make sure your organization’s name is spelled correctly and clearly and with proper grammar and capitalization. Same goes for your subject line, as well as the actual body of the email. Your attention to detail is one of the best ways to show the people on your email list that you care.

  2. Use a great subject line. This might take a little experimentation to figure out what gets the attention of your audience. Be creative and keep it short. Take note of the subject lines you get in your inbox from thriving nonprofits or successful businesses – even national brands. Look at who’s “doing it right” and be inspired to make their ideas your own.

  3. Use more than one email list. Have one email list for your donors, and another for the people you serve. If you separate the two groups of people, you can better customize the type of email and its content for each audience. For example, you can let the people you serve know about an upcoming class.  You can send your donors emails about a touching story that might help illustrate how important their support is to your organization. Keep in mind who your audience is – what’s their age range, what’s their income, education, do they understand what your organization does? What is their relationship with your nonprofit? Put yourself in their shoes – how are they going to feel when they read your email? What is in it for them?

    Check out Episode 7 of this podcast for a great exercise that can help you determine who your audience is.

  4. Repurpose content. If you’re thinking, what on earth am I going to write to my donors about? Or, how am I ever going to know what to say in an email to the people we serve? Relax – you already know the answer! Take your social media posts or your blog posts, and reshape them into an email. Make it readable, expand on the idea if necessary, and – use a great subject line.

    If you’re worried that people are seeing your content twice, let me ask you this – how many times a day do you see the same pizza commercial on TV? Or hear the same radio ad? Repetition is how you build recognition with your audience.

  5. Keep your goal in mind. What is the point of your email? Are you increasing awareness about your organization? Are you promoting a specific event or service? Are you asking your audience to do something or take action? Ask yourself, “What is my goal?” and let that guide you as you’re writing your email.

If you want more tips on how to write a great email, or ideas on how it should look, listen to Episode 13 of Unlocking Your Nonprofit Potential

One last thing to remember – keep that email short. Avoid wordy emails, write well, use proper grammar, and use just a paragraph or two with plenty of spacing between paragraphs so it’s easily readable. 

I want you to know that not everyone is going to open every single one of your emails. It’s just not going to happen - but if they see your emails consistently every week, then when they see something that you sent that they’re interested in, they’ll open it! 

Listen to this – the average open rate for most industries is about 21%. That means, if 21% of people are opening your emails, you are right on the money. If you have a higher rate, you are doing excellent, and if you have a lower rate – don’t sweat it – just keep consistently sending out emails once a week, or every other week, and you’ll get there. 

You can view your open rate on email platforms like MailChimp. I like MailChimp – I think it’s pretty user-friendly and intuitive – and free for as long as you have 2,000 subscribers or less. You can also have multiple lists using MailChimp. You can schedule emails to send out at a later time and see what time of day and what days have more successful open rates. 

Let all your platforms feed into each other – communication from all angles leads to more people seeing your brand – your nonprofit. Then they become more and more familiar with it. They recognize your logo, your colors, your organization’s name. And what does familiarity lead to? Trust. If people trust you because they’ve seen you across Facebook, Instagram and their email – consistently showing up with a uniform message, making an effort, and consistently staying focused on your mission, they will begin to trust you. 

Building those “know, like, and trust” feelings with your audience is key, especially when it comes to fundraising but you can’t do it overnight. You have to build those “know, like and trust” feelings over time, and email is a great way to do that.

If you keep consistently showing up and building those “know, like and trust” feelings, people will begin to support you. People will utilize your services. They will tell their friends about you. This is how you grow your nonprofit! By using every tool you have in your tool box to show up consistently and show everyone you are focused on your mission, and you’re here to make a difference.

You are doing a great job. I just want you to know that! If you don’t have your email game dialed in yet – just make a goal of sending out one email a month. Then, aim for once a week, or every other week if possible. Do the best that you can and keep going – be consistent!

Tell someone you know about this podcast! Send them an email about it and say, “Hey! I’ve been listening to this podcast and I’ve been getting a lot out of it – just thought I’d share!”

The more you share this podcast, the more you are helping people who have so much to give to the world, but might feel stuck in trying to figure it all out on their own. So help them out! Tell them about this podcast so you can help someone with a great mission get “unstuck” and move forward in helping make the world a better place with their nonprofit.

If you have any questions – I’m right here for you! Ask away! Send me a message on Facebook or Instagram or send me an email through and I’ll happily write you back with an answer!

Remember to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast app, or get episodes delivered straight to your email by subscribing at That’s Follow Nonprofit Potential on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for special content released throughout the week, too.

Links mentioned in this episode:

MailChimp Email Platform

Episode 13: 
5 Things You NEED to Know About Email Newsletters

Episode 4:  What's Your Brand?

Episode 7:  Who Is Your Ideal Customer Portrait?

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