Build an email list

Building an email list is a great way to stay in touch with people in your local area who care about the environment.

19 Feb 2020

You can keep people up-to-date on what you're up to and invite them to get involved with your group.

You might already have an email list or you might find yourself with one after a successful event or petition. Either way here are some tips to help you build and maintain your list.

Stay in touch

Imagine you’ve signed a petition and ticked the box to say you want to hear more. You’ve got some spare time on your hands and you’re keen to know how else you could get involved with the group behind the petition.

But you never hear back from anyone and eventually you forget all about the petition. 

Now imagine an alternative scenario. Your group creates a digital petition and 300 people add their name. Many of them sign up to receive regular updates about your campaign.

Some of them even join your petition hand-in at the town hall – because you invited them. And some of them come along to a group meeting keen to get more involved.

Not everyone on your email list will become an active member of your group.  But if someone’s taken action with you once it’s quite likely they’ll do so again given the chance. You just need to provide them with the opportunity.

Plan ahead

Send too many emails and people are likely to feel overloaded and unsubscribe. Send too few and you increase your chances of being forgotten or ignored. Striking the right balance depends on what you’ve got to say.

Try to send regular updates but don’t go overboard and bombard people.

To get the best from your emails it’s worth spending time planning ahead. Plan when to send emails and what to say. Think about how often you’d like to get an email after signing a petition or attending an event when mapping the key milestones of your campaign.

For example:

Week 1 You’ve launched a new petition. 

Ask your existing contact list of 50 people to sign and share it.

Week 3 You’re halfway to your target of 500 signatures which will trigger a council debate. Your email list is now 150.

Tell everyone you're halfway there and ask them to share the petition with friends and family to help reach your target.

Week 5 You’re almost at 500 signatures and the deadline to reach your target is fast-approaching.

Send another final reminder asking for help with the final push. 

Week 6: Target reached. You’ll be handing your petition in next week at the Town Hall. Your email list is now over 300 people.

Send an invitation email for a photoshoot before the hand-in.

Week 7 It’s the day after the debate. You’ve won your demands and you’ve got plans for what’ll happen next.

Invite everyone to a celebratory meeting where they can find out more about getting involved with your group.

Week 9 You’ve made plans for a film screening for another campaign.

Invite everyone to come along and share some popcorn.

Stand out

Even though people have said they want to hear from you, your emails still need to stand out from the crowd.

In a world of competing priorities – when people are often reading their emails on a phone or a tablet whilst their attention is on other things – you don’t always have a lot of time to get your message across.

  • Keep it short. Your subject line needs to fit on a small mobile phone screen. People don’t have time to read an essay so don't write one. 
  • Get to the point. If you want people to do something like sign a petition, get to it quickly. Then repeat your call to action again later.
  • Stick to one thing. Avoid overloading people with too much content. Figure out what’s most important and focus on that.
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms. Be careful not to assume knowledge. People won’t read every email you send them and won't know the whole story.
  • Make it fun. Nobody wants another boring newsletter so looks for ways to make your emails sound enticing and fun. 
  • Look good. Use brightly coloured buttons to promote links. Personalise your emails with people's names to help engage them.
  • Be a friend. Imagine you're sending your email to just one person. Have that person in mind as you write because although its going to lots of people it has to work on a personal level too.
  • Check your work. Send yourself a test copy and read it through aloud. Do your words flow? Do they make sense? Make changes if not. Ask for feedback from others in your group.

If you want to explore this further then our Top tips for your email video is a great place to start.

Monthly bulletins

A monthly newsletter can seem like a good way to share what’s going on in the group. They're often used when you have a lot to say or not enough time to spend writing emails. 

But asking people to sign two petitions, come to an event and read a news article all in one email can be too much. More often than not it ends up with very few people doing anything.

You can reverse that trend by spending time planning your content and prioritising the most important parts. Swap one monthly newsletter for more frequent but less-cluttered emails and you'll see engagement with your emais go up.

Get support

Writing and planning emails takes time and practice. Contact us if you'd like any further guidance or advice. 

There are lots of great email platforms available to your group. Why not try Action Network – our digital platform designed to help you build and manage an email list? 


How to guides