Fundraise Smarter

How to Build An Email Capturing Machine. In 1 Hour. For Free.

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on Sep 8, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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If you’ve been reading our blog or for any amount of time or attending our webinars, you know how big I am on capturing email addresses from your website visitors. Many times, nonprofits want to jump straight to the donation button, but many first time visitors aren’t ready for that step yet.

However, after you’ve built some trust with them, they might be. That’s why email capture is such an important part of your development strategy; it turns anonymous web traffic into known visitors and supporters that you can then steward and cultivate.

And you never know who from that pool of online donors who donated $25 once could be cultivated into an annual giver and avid supporter of your work.

But how exactly do you capture email addresses? Just ask for them? Have a subscribe form hidden away on your site?

Today, I’m going to show you how to build a high-converting, attention-grabbing (but non-obtrusive), email capture tool that you can put on your blog or website to start growing your email list.

An Enticing Offer

First, a hard truth: giving away an email address is a transaction. That person is giving away something valuable: access to their inbox. They only have a limited amount of inbox traffic they’ll tolerate, so most people will not give it away for free.

Just as you do with donations, you need to prove some value.

In the case of email capture, you want to provide the registrant with something valuable that they can use.

There are a lot of ways to do this: tools, e-books, checklists, guides, the list goes on. But since we’re working on a way to set this up quickly, we’re going to focus on low-hanging fruit today.

Step 1: The Checklist

Checklists are a great, simple way to provide something of value to potential subscribers that won’t take a lot of resources for you to create. In fact, you likely already have some of these assets in place. They just 1 - 3 pages, short on prose and fancy designs, but they still provide a lot of value in that small package.

Here are some ideas for checklists various organizations could create:

  • The Men’s Guide to Feminism (Daily Actions You Can Take to Be an Advocate)
  • Child Abuse Warning Signs Checklist
  • 25 Things to Do Everyday to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
  • The Teacher’s Guide to a Bully-Free Classroom
  • Accessibility Checklist
  • Food Sustainability Shopping List
  • 30 Hurtful Phrases to Remove from Your Vocabulary
  • Inclusive Workplace Checklist

The ideas are endless and it really comes down to your organization and the work you do. If you’re having trouble thinking of possible checklists that might interest general visitors, try this: Think less about things that relate directly to your services/mission, and think about what you want the world to become by fulfilling your mission. From this perspective, your mission isn’t really about reducing the incarceration rate, but keeping families together and improving the economic situation of working class families. What actions can the general public take that supports that outcome?

Fundraising Campaign Calendar

As I mentioned before, you likely already have a lot of this material already written. Here are some places to look for these assets:

  • Volunteer training materials
  • New employee training materials
  • Presentations given by your leadership
  • Board information
  • Annual reports

Next, we need to turn that information into a nice, one-page checklist.

Using your favorite word processor, write a one-paragraph introduction. Next, list out each item using a bulleted list. Under the bullet menu, change the bullets to small checkboxes. Don’t forget to put your logo on the top and a copyright on the bottom! Export the file as a PDF (so that all internet users can access it), and that part’s done!

Step 2: The Delivery

Next, we want an automated way to deliver the checklist. Using your preferred email service (MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact), set up an automated message that gets delivered to all new mail subscribers (the “welcome” message).

In this message, thank your new contact for subscribing, and deliver the checklist via an attachment or download link. This doesn’t need to be too fancy, just get to the point.

There’s a chance your email service will not allow attachments. In this case, you need a place to host the document. If you use Wordpress, you can upload the PDF file under the media menu, then copy the link for the document and place that link in your email message. Other options include Dropbox or Google Drive. Same process: upload it, then copy the share link and paste it into your welcome message.

Step 3: The Call-to-Action

It’s not enough to have a great offer and expect people to gravitate towards it. You need to make it attention-grabbing and easy. Remember, internet traffic is like electricity: it follows the path of least resistance.

My favorite way to capture emails is using the tools provided by SumoMe. Here’s why SumoMe is so great:

  • Lots of options for tools (slide-in boxes, pop-ups, or landing pages)
  • Integrates with most popular email tools
  • It’s free

Can’t get better than that, right?

SumoMe is also ridiculously easy to install. Head over to their main page, click “Try It Now,” enter your email, and you’ll be given a line of code.

This is where it might get tricky.

You need to copy and paste this code into the “<head>” of your website. Basically, this will tell your website to use this code everywhere on your site.

If you’re using a do-it-yourself website tool like SquareSpace, Wordpress, or Wix, installing this in the head is pretty straight forward. It’s usually located in a menu like “site manager,” but it’s probably best to search in your website providers help document for a phrase like “installing code in head.”

If you don’t have access to this, or your website was built by a professional web designer, email the code to that person and they will certainly know what to do (if they don’t, start shopping around for a new web master.)

Paste the code into the <head> section of your website and hit save. Next, head over to your webpage and look for a small blue square that appears on the upper right.

See it hiding up there?


Click the icon, and enter your account info that you set up on SumoMe.

Next, we’re going to install one of their apps to capture emails. I’m a big fan of their new “Welcome Mat” tool which turns any page it’s installed on into a full-page landing page for your offer. If people aren’t interested, they can close the window and continue on to your site.

Click on the “Sumo Store” option once you’ve opened the menu on your website and install “Welcome Mat.” Select the free plan, and we’re ready to start designing.

All it takes is about 5 steps:


Next, connect your email provider by click “Services” and selecting your email service:

Follow the instructions to connect, and you’re in business!

Building the Relationship

Once you’ve started to build your list, you still need to continue to provide quality content to your subscribers to help build trust and rapport. Remember: no one likes reading self-serving content. Your subscribers don’t want to hear you talk about yourself, they want to hear about your mission and how they can make a difference. Build that relationship and soon enough, you can begin to offer them ways to become involved!

Fundraising Campaign Calendar

Topics: nonprofit marketing,

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