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How do you build your email list?

It's a question I get all the time. Short of borrowing, copying, stealing, or buying other peoples' lists, how do you grow your email list? How do you make friends and influence people?

The short answer? Provide useful, meaningful, compelling content via an email newsletter.

A longer answer comes from the blog Uneasy Rhetoric, written by a more-or-less anonymous fella who works for a nonprofit organization in Sacramento.

1) Make sure you have a tell-a-friend feature. Even if you only get a handful of forwards and one or two new subscribers, it’s worth it.

2) Every one of your staff members should be trained to plug your organization’s email update list. Constantly. To everyone and their dog.

3) Have a web-form for getting more information about the organization. Duh.

4) Remember to give people something to do. “Tell your representative you’re pissed off! And become a friend of the Organization of the Righteously Pissed Off and get email updates so you’ll know other things that will piss you off enough to tell your representative.” This works better for political organizations, but I’m sure there are other iterations for other organizations.

5) Don’t call people subscribers if you can get away with it. They are members or friends. Always. They are a part of your community.

Incidentally, about that borrowing/copying/stealing/buying thing... don't do that. That's just spam. And as Yoda might say, "Spam is the path to the dark side. Spam leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

Previously on P&T:
Post-election email strategy
Tracking email readership
Be Disciplined with Email
Test your email for spamminess
Email "campaigns" versus single-asks
All about political email