5 Ways to Optimize Your Fundraising Email Signups

Have you looked at your email signups lately? If your signup boxes don’t work correctly, you might lose subscribers, or they might not track correctly in your statistics. And if you’re not collecting emails at all your events or through your online accounts, you might also lose out on potential supporters and revenue.

Likely there is room for improvement which means you’ll get more out of your mailing list. If your email signups are already set up perfectly you could still learn more about the service you’re already using and the features it offers and find ways to use them to optimize your current setup even more.

Tip: As you’re going through the following list, be sure to take notes and then call your email service provider (ESP) with your questions. You’ll likely get to your answers more quickly than trying to scan the site for answers on forums and Q&A pages and you’ll get a first hand experience of their customer service. But before you call, you should be familiar with how to access your account information and basic features of their website. (Confused about what an ESP is? This article is about the type of ESP you use for marketing. More on Wikipedia.org.)

Also, as you’re testing your email service you should have at least three or four different emails from different services. You can most likely set up additional emails through your current Internet Service Provider; ISPs usually offer a dozen or more emails that are included with your account account. And you can sign up with one of the free email providers like Google. If you already have a Google account, like Google+ or YouTube, you could simply use that account to create your free email account. Yahoo also offers free email accounts.

Going through this list you will need to check the email signup box code. If you don’t know how to do this, work with with your webmaster or whoever manages your website.

email signup graphic

OK, let’s get started:

1. Test your email signup boxes

Let’s take a look at a signup box on your website: are you sure that it properly tracks each subscriber, email opens and clicks, unsubscribes and so on? If you have a customized signup box, some services might have to be coded in separately, or vice versa, if you have a default signup box you might have to customize it to get the features you want. Most likely though a default box will have all the main services already built into the code.

What to do:

– Use your extra emails (Gmail, Yahoo etc.) to sign up for your own newsletter and see if and how they show up in your email service provider’s statistics. Shortly after you’ve signed up, you should receive an email to each one asking you to confirm your subscription. Every email service provider we’ve checked does this. This confirmation email could be their default, or you could use the opportunity to customize it with your own words and logo. But be sure to keep it as simple as the default version.

All the ESPs we’ve tried will show new subscribers instantly, but there might be services that only update your list once a day.

– Wait for your next newsletter to be sent out so you can open it and click on all the links within that email. Again, check your ESP to see if all the links clicked are actually tracked. You could also send out a separate test email just to your email address, but the main idea is to check an email that all of your supporters receive for email opens and link clicks to make sure they’re tracked properly.

Note: If you got your test emails through different companies (i.e. Gmail, Yahoo) you will see differences in design, how the title shows, if the email shows an excerpt, how links are displayed etc. Use the opportunity to fix any issues. If your email goes to a SPAM folder, check with the email provider’s latest rules on how to prevent this.

If you find any discrepancy with signups, opens and links clicked, take notes and ask your ESP how to optimize these features or help you fix them so they work for you each and every time.

– If your site uses different code for signup boxes in different locations on your site, you should test those as well. If you have a blog, most likely it uses the same code on all signup boxes that show in the same spot one each page.

Having different code for different signup boxes on different locations on a webpage is needed if you want to track which box locations results in the most signups. But your ESP might already have information for which page your subscribers signed up on without having to use different code for signup boxes.

– Make sure you test your signup boxes on smart phones and tablets. Currently around half of all internet users access it from a mobile device.

popular email service providers
Some popular email service providers

2. Optimize locations for email signup boxes

Since you’re already optimizing the signup process you might as well optimize locations as well which will increase your email signups. You could sprinkle boxes all over your website, but that would probably just make it look cluttered and your visitors would eventually ignore them.

Here are a few common and great locations to test your signup boxes: top of the right sidebar, a pop-up box when you first enter the site (try a service like OptinMonster.com or Sumome.com), at the bottom or on top of an article post like this one, the footer possibly, a large box on the home page.

Which one is best? Every subject matter niche and different website designs will have different best places for email signups. You will have to test different locations and combinations of signups to find out what works best for your site. Many email services will offer statistics and testing to make it easier to find the right spot. To start, place a signup box in your sidebar which is a very common place and where visitors have come to expect to find them, or as a pop-up.

3. Customize your confirmation, thank you and follow-up emails

Every time someone signs up, they will receive a confirmation email. Find out how to customize it with your logo. If you’d also like to customize the text, keep it simple like the default: remember that all you want the subscribers to do here is click on the confirmation link. You might also be able to customize the subject line. Most likely that has already been optimized by the ESP to achieve the highest open rates. If you’d like to change this remember that all email programs differ in how much of the subject line they show and how much of the actual email they show as a teaser. Another reason to use several different test emails.

Do you have a “Thank you for signing up” email? If no, you should! If yes, are you asking the subscriber for joining something else, an opportunity to donate or read about your latest project? If nothing else, include links to your website or social media accounts that might be of interest to your subscriber and to convey more information about the work you do.

Do you have a follow-up email that’s sent out a couple of days or weeks after your “Thank you for signing up” email? You can ask to see if they’ve gotten all the info they were expecting and ask if they have any questions for you. Provide a link to a contact form, or some other way to send a response to you. You can also add more links of interest for them if they don’t want to respond. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect and be attentive to what they might like to know in order to support you.

You might also want to add more follow-up emails, perhaps one per week for four weeks or longer leading up to one of your events, or if you’re selling products. Don’t forget to stop these emails once the event is over and replace them within another set of appropriate emails for your new subscribers. If you’d like to implement this feature, add it to your list to ask the ESP.

4. Have signup links available on all your social media accounts

Add links to your signup form to all your social media accounts. Facebook has an email signup app you can use that allows you to place an email signup form under one of your tabs.

Even though having followers and subscribers on any service is useful, having email subscribers is usually still more valuable than a social media account subscriber: Your message will land right in their inbox as opposed to you relying on them signing into their social media account and hopefully seeing your message. An email list is also a great way to get people to visit your site, even if you’re not getting that much search engine traffic.

5. Collect more email addresses

Just a reminder for the different ways you can collect email addresses:

– Manually: at events with sign up forms, or with the help of having a laptop or iPad available where people can directly add their email to your list. Note that to combat spam some ESPs won’t allow you to import email lists into their systems, or only allow you to manually add one email at a time, that’s why setting up a system where people can enter their emails directly into a computer saves you time to enter them manually and almost guarantees that they’re being added in the first place. Remind them that they’ll still have to click their email confirmation link.

– Online through all your channels like website(s) and social media channels, online fundraising pages and so on.

– Pop-up signup box on your website. Yes, these might be annoying, but if you test them for optimal display times, they can vastly increase your subscriber list.


Changing your ESP?

As you’re testing your and optimizing your email signups, you might realize that you need a different email provider, perhaps because your current one doesn’t offer services you’d like to have (like blog feed distribution), or their customer service isn’t helpful, or is expected to close up shop soon, like Google’s Feedburner.

Before you change all your signup boxes, make sure you can easily switch all your subscribers from the old service to the new service. Some ESPs don’t allow that and require that you ask all your current subscribers to go through another verification process again, which might drastically reduce your subscriber base. Subscribers might be confused and don’t quite understand why they’re contacted by another service and so on.

Also, you might want to keep your old service until you know for sure the new one works perfectly. Don’t rush this process.

Don’t forget: If you’re changing your ESP you’ll likely have to adjust wording in your privacy policy and/or terms of use as well.

We’re going through this process of optimizing our fundraising email list ourselves these days, trying out each service’s features and live customer support. Even though it’s a lot of work, we’re already seeing clear differences in features and how different services approach dealing with customer inquiries.


And now: a money saving tip!

You’ve done a lot of hard (and possibly annoying) work and now it’s time for your payoff! Maybe you already know this, but just because someone is unsubscribing from your newsletter list, doesn’t mean they’re not still on some other list within your ESP. Which means that you’re still paying for that subscriber!

First, you’ll have to ask yourself if there is still some good reason to keep people’s emails who have unsubscribed. If there isn’t, delete them permanently and you won’t be charged for them any more. If you’re not sure if you might need them in the future, download the “unsubscribed” list in CSV form before deleting them.


Even though testing your signup process can be a real hassle, it is well worth it! Don’t miss your opportunity of automating and optimizing your email signups for more and happier subscribers, more potential supporters and higher revenue!

Do you have a favorite ESP or email feature? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Posted by Is Your Website Optimized for Mobile Devices? | Fundraising How Tos and Event Ideas 30th July, 2013 at 11:38 am

    […] through this list will take some time (like optimizing your email signup boxes), but it will be very well worth it in terms of website visitor satisfaction which turns to higher […]



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