By Josh Kashorek, Director of Marketing at Journity, and advocate for using data to create high-performance nonprofit marketing campaigns.


Every nonprofit needs two things to drive sustainable growth: new contacts and new donors. There’s no silver bullet that will make donors come flocking to your website eager to hand their hard-earned cash over to you. But there are some very simple tactics, often overlooked, that pretty much guarantee massive growth to both your email lists and to your donor database.

Before we dive into the specific tactics, the first thing you need to do is test both your email signup and donation forms. You might be thinking this is unnecessary, but it only takes a few minutes to test both – on your laptop and your phone – and it could save you huge headaches in the long run. The bottom line is this: if people can’t subscribe or donate, then it doesn’t matter how great your content is. NextAfter and Kindful published an email cultivation report a few months ago; one of the key findings was that they were not able to subscribe and receive emails from 52% of the nonprofits they attempted to test. Take the 5 minutes to test, so you don’t end up part of that statistic!

Now that we have that out of the way, we can get on to the fun part! There are 3 tactics that are so easy you can set them up today and start getting new email subscribers right away.

Tactic 1: Make it Visible

Your nonprofit most likely has a lot going on, not to mention you need to provide content to multiple audiences (those that benefit from your service, your volunteers and your donors, at a minimum). As a result, space on your website is at a premium, and this typically means the email subscribe form gets bumped all the way down to the footer, or worse, buried deep within the website’s navigation. Don’t panic though! You don’t need to completely reorganize your website to make your subscribe form visible. Instead, you can use a well-timed pop-up. Pop-ups provide several benefits:

  1. It will stand out from the rest of your content so you know users will see it.
  2. It allows you to keep other content front and center on the website while only showing the email sign-up when it’s appropriate.
  3. Pop-ups convert better (we looked at data from 2,539,267 page views and found that on average, pop-ups converted at 4.25 times the rate of inline content!)

This pop-up on Nonprofit Tech for Good gets people to sign up for their newsletter at 9.5x the rate of their signup form in the right sidebar! If you aren’t using pop-ups to get new email subscribers, you should give it a try right now. There’s a good chance your email list will grow exponentially.

Note: Creating a pop-up like this should take less than a half hour on Journity, so there’s no excuse not to do it.

Tactic 2: Give Them a Reason to Subscribe

Every nonprofit needs more email subscribers, but very few website visitors need more emails in their inbox. The standard practice for nonprofits is to offer a subscribe form with a call-to-action that reads “Subscribe to get our newsletter”, but this is not a compelling reason for most readers to subscribe. You already know that people are visiting your website because something sparked their interest. Simply offering them a popular piece of content, or better yet a downloadable resource may be all the incentive they need to give you permission to email them.

In the example above, a rescue mission offered an impact story video (which they already had available) and invited users to get involved in their community through downloadable resource cards. By offering value up front, they were able to generate new subscribers and donations because people could experience their care for the community first-hand. Offering a downloadable resource instead of just offering to subscribe to a newsletter consistently drives better results. In one test we saw, offering a simple PDF increased the subscriber rate as much as 71%.

Note: Offering informational content upfront is one of the best ways to cultivate new donors online. In one test we ran leading up to this past Giving Tuesday, we offered 25 weeks of informational content to those who subscribed. When Giving Tuesday came along, the subscribers that received the informational content converted at a 159% higher rate than those who didn’t receive the content, and had an 89% higher average donation amount!

Tactic 3: Only Ask Them to Subscribe When It’s Relevant

We’ve already discussed that you have a ton of content on your website, and it’s all competing for the attention of your website visitors. This means it’s critical to use every single pixel to provide content that is relevant to your users. You can keep your user’s attention by only showing them messaging when it is relevant. Two really easy ways to do this are:

  1. Don’t ask first-time visitors to subscribe. Instead, give them some content so they can get to know you. People often complain about pop-ups because website owners show too many that aren’t relevant
  2. Once someone subscribes don’t ask them to subscribe again. Nothing is more frustrating than subscribing to an email list only to come back to the website and get asked to subscribe again.

By only showing email subscription requests and donation asks when it’s relevant, you’ll find that your users are more likely to pay attention when you have a request to make.

Note:  You can go well beyond just showing different content based on subscriber status. By using additional segmentation, such as content affinities and engagement scoring, you can boost results even higher.

Put These Tactics into Action

Hopefully, you got some new ideas from this article, but more importantly, I hope you put those ideas into action. The best practices here will give you a great start toward long term growth, and they can be implemented faster than you might think. Here’s an easy action plan you can follow to get going right away.

  1. Test your email subscribe and donation forms on both your computer and phone (5 minutes or less).
  2. Set up a pop-up asking website visitors to subscribe. (30 minutes or less).
  3. Add a resource as an incentive to subscribe (60 minutes if you already have a resource, more if you have to create the resource from scratch).
  4. Set your pop-up and inline asks to only show to non-subscribers (5 minutes or less).

There you have it, you can dramatically increase the number of email subscribers, and cultivate new donors in under 2 hours. This can all be done without having to pay for ads to drive more traffic to your website and using the resources you have. If you don’t already have a way to manage pop-ups and embedded content on your website, you might consider giving Journity a try on our FREE tier. We built it to help busy nonprofit pro’s like you improve their digital performance.


Journity is the first website personalization platform designed specifically for nonprofits and includes all the important features a growing nonprofit needs such as options for both email capture and instant donation pop-ups. With Journity you can manage pop-ups and embed content directly inline with the rest of your website. We believe that all your website visitors are unique individuals and should have personalized content to help them along their journey.

3 Easy Ways to Get New Email Subscribers and Drive Donor Growth