Published: 19 October 2010

Outreach is number one

Engaging Network's Jonathan Puchase talks about how to grow your supporter and donor lists 

At our recent AO Community Conference, we provided delegates with the option of picking from five tracks throughout the day. The most attended track was “outreach and marketing”. Not surprising.

As we are driven more and more by results, everyone wanted to hear how they could grow their lists to achieve maximum impact. So what are the best ways to go about this? There are no hard and fast rules but here’s what I think.

  • The value of social networks

Email is still king but if you want to see your numbers rise, you need a presence on social networking sites (Facebook, twitter, YouTube etc). It’s more than a case of just putting up links to your site with campaign actions and stories. You need to develop a community, maybe give them unique things to do or at least tell your story from a different angle. You should certainly encourage debate in and amongst your groups; it’s not very social if all the debate is coming straight from your organisation. Empower your social network groups and they will help to spread the word for you.

  • Campaigner/donor conversion

How many of you ask your campaigners to donate and your donors to campaign? Not many I’d imagine! This really is key reaching out. In my opinion, supporters come to join a whole organisation, not just one aspect of it. So, try directly linking e-actions to donation asks (and vice versa), and carry the address details through so your supporters don’t have to fill in their information again – all they should have to do is enter their bank details.

You should also email supporters who have taken an action with a donation request on a similar "ask". As is the case with all aspects of online communications, make sure you track everything and test out all possible scenarios. Only then will you find out what works best for you.

  • Use of widgets

Not everyone will want to click on links that drive them to your website; many people will be put off by this as they will want to stay where they are. So, putting a widget up on social networks, blogs, partner sites and so on – whereby people can take action without going anywhere – is a great idea. This will please certain supporters but also might make it more likely for certain websites to promote your campaign as they won’t be losing traffic to your site! Don’t forget to add a check box so people can "sign up" and make sure you track and test.

  • Buying in lists, paying for new supporters through banner ads…

There are many ways for you to buy in lists of new supporters but you should think this through carefully. Just getting names and emails of people who have no affiliation with your cause will generally be no good. You might grow your database and please your managers initially but will these "supporters" really hang around to take action for you? There are companies out there, like Care2, that specialise in giving you lists that have a relationship with your issue(s) already; these supporters are far more likely to be better for you.

You can also consider paid advertising but again you need to do your research, this time into which publisher to go for, so that your adverts are placed on the best sites for you. Banner advertising with the right publishers can help generate broader public awareness but if the objective is simply growing your online community, list buying is a good option.

Assuming you get new supporters through these methods you then need to make sure you personalise the stories you tell them. Don’t just make it about your organisation; tell stories about how your supporters are helping you to make a difference. Show real people taking action; this will empower others to take part too.


Jonathan Purchase, head of UK market development, Engaging Networks