Setting up your email collection machine

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The last Fundraising Nerd blog post was about collecting email addresses using incentives, a.k.a. content marketing. Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of setting this up in your fundraising shop. With readily-available technology, it’s fairly easy to set up a system that will automatically collect email addresses and deliver content to people who are interested in your organization.

Depending on your donor database, email tool, and/or web platform, you may have a variety of means at your disposal to accomplish this. In this post, we’ll use delivering content via MailChimp as our example. MailChimp is an email program that has integrations with a number of nonprofit databases, and it happens to be the email product that Fundraising Nerd uses.

Even if you don’t use MailChimp, you might set up a fairly similar process using your email tool and web platform, so this example should still be helpful. Your software vendor(s) can tell you whether you can design a similar workflow using your email tool, web platform, and/or database.  Get in touch with your vendor support and review your product support materials and forums.

Let’s imagine that your organization is an organization that promotes health, and you have decided to offer .pdf guide of healthy recipes in exchange for people’s email addresses. Let’s look at the mechanics of how this might work.

1)      Set up a specific mailing list in MailChimp to collect email addresses for people who want the recipe guide. Call it “Healthy Recipes”.

2)      Create a web form to collect email addresses for your Healthy Recipes list.

  • You could create this web form using MailChimp. Using this option, you’ll use MailChimp's Signup Form feature. Each list has its own signup form(s) associated with it, so you'll set this up in the Lists section. After you finish your design, MailChimp will generate html code to embed in your organization’s website. You’ll copy and paste the code into your website’s back end. Check out your web platform’s help materials to learn how to do this. The html code that you insert into your website will display the form and connect it to MailChimp.


  • Alternately, your web platform may integrate directly with MailChimp. In this case, you can create your web form using your web platform, and can connect it to your specific Healthy Recipes mailing list. Fundraising Nerd uses Squarespace, which makes it easy to design forms that link to MailChimp.

3)      In MailChimp, set up an automatic email with a .pdf attachment that is triggered to be sent every time a new email address is added to your Healthy Recipes list. This can be set up in the Campaigns section of MailChimp. MailChimp will automatically include opt-out information; if you are using a different email tool, be sure to give email recipients a way to get off your list.

4)      Make sure that the emails you collect using your Healthy Recipes list are added to your donor database, either via regular import or via an integration with MailChimp (most ideal).

5)      If you are using Google Analytics to track conversions (highly recommended!), then host your “thank you for downloading our healthy recipes guide” page on your own website. This is an option you can configure when you set up your signup form. That way, you can use arriving at the thank you page as a goal, which will let you analyze how well your recipes guide is working to convert website visitors.

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