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Welcoming e-News Subscribers

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A friend just asked me about the best practice for welcoming people who sign up for e-news or updates through your website home page.

Well, as always, it depends.  Is the purpose of the newsletter, information, fundraising or service provision?  Each may require a different solution.

For fundraising, let’s start with some hypothetical numbers.  It is fine to adjust my numbers, just make sure you follow a similar logical process and measure reality against your projected numbers.

For example: Let’s say you have  500 new subscribers a month. Perhaps 300 will ever open another email, 150  might click on anything, and in the end, only 1-20 would ever donate.

Of those that donate perhaps 20-30% would ever donate again.  So, that means 500 new subscribers a month leads to just maybe 25 repeat donors.  There will be exceptions, but from my experience, that’s rare.

So, whatever you do, think it through carefully.  Be careful with how much time and effort you put into it.  If you put ANY effort into it then it essential you also include budget and time directing people to the e-news invitation in the first place.

With e-news we need to consider a few things:

  • What is the primary purpose of the e-news? I can only think of three:
    • Charitable purpose, e.g. for people with diabetes, you could be giving tips or useful information.
    • Fundraising (asking for donations, or thanking – with a view to getting more donations)
    • Getting volunteers.
  • Who is your target audience?
    • Depends on your primary purpose.
    • It is unlikely your e-news will excel if it were trying to do all three of my examples.
  • Do you have confidence that it will go out regularly?
  • It is written all about beneficiaries and donors, NOT the organisation?

Now if fundraising is the purpose of your e-news, you have about thirty days to get a phone number and/or donation! 

So you will need to work hard and fast.  After that, the chances of a donation are so low it was all a waste.

This is the honeymoon period where people are most likely to click, open and respond.  And one of the biggest drivers of one of those actions is the volume of emails.  Not a volume of rubbish emails, but a volume of quality, well thought through emails to your donors.

Also, if you are asking for a donation or monthly gift then your targeting is key.  You want people over 45 for best results.  Maybe a few 35-45-year-olds will be ok, but age is the most important targeting criteria for most such campaigns.  Older is better.

During this honeymoon phase, your emails need to be engaging, aim for a click or feedback every time and include surveys, asks, information, links to video and more.

If you are on top of your data, save the ask for towards the end of the thirty days so you can personalise depending on people’s clicks, links, shares, and feedback.  But this is pretty advanced stuff.

Including a survey in the mix is a good idea too…

A few surveys I have been sent recently – GetUp! was likely testing these subject headers, including one which was a joke about our recent Australian Census failure.
A few surveys I have been sent recently – GetUp! was likely testing these subject headers, including one which was a joke about our recent Australian Census failure.

In the survey, every question needs a purpose.  It should be one of these:

  • A question that makes people want to fill in the survey
  • A question that aids targeting (especially age, or age bracket)
  • A question that leads people to donate
  • A question that can and WILL be used in personalisation.  ‘As a mother of two children you understand…’ or ‘imagine if Bramble didn’t have the love of you and your family and was abandoned…’
  • A question that tries to get across the key proposition of the organisation.
  • Something that captures address or other details but most importantly, phone number.

It’s an easy statement that someone might make in a planning meeting: “Let’s have an e-newsletter and sign up on the homepage.”  It’s unlikely anyone will disagree, but you really need to plan this out properly and do the numbers before investing any time.

I’d love to hear from you – what works for you? What is your approach? What do you need to improve?


(P.S. Wanna learn how to deal with your newsletter subscribers the RIGHT way? Then check out our Supporter Connection Survey Course in The Fundraisingology Lab.)


  • Sean Triner

    Sean Triner is a Co-Founder of Moceanic and Pareto Group. With over three decades of experience in fundraising and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in mathematics, Sean has a wealth of fundraising expertise to share with Moceanic members and blog readers. He is also a coach and available for bookings on the Coaching+ program for fundraisers to help answer your questions and work hands-on directly with you.

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