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6 Unexpected Online Fundraising Tools That Can Grow Your Revenue

Published by Nathan Hill

6 Unexpected Online Fundraising Tools image

The key to growing your nonprofit’s online revenue doesn’t lie in new online fundraising tools. Because people give to people – not to the latest CRM, email marketing platform, or social media listening tool.

What I’m not going to do in this post is give you a list of all the slick donation page tools out there (although if you need a great one, you should check out Raise Donors).

I am going to give you 6 unexpected online fundraising tools that you can use to build a donor-focused and humanized online fundraising strategy – without forcing you to spend a ton of money.

These 6 tools will help you implement new strategies that connect with donors on a personal level even when they’re just browsing your website.

Here are the 6 unexpected online fundraising tools:

Rather than just give you the name of a tool and a quick review, I’m going to give of how each one ties into an online fundraising growth strategy.

Let’s dive in.

(P.S. Huge shout-out to the NextAfter CTO for putting this list together. You can hear him break down each tool in a free webinar on 6 online fundraising hacks here. )

Google Analytics

If you work in online fundraising, you should know about Google Analytics. It’s not designed specifically for nonprofits, but honestly, none of the platforms in this post are designed specifically to be “online fundraising tools.”

You likely already have Google Analytics set up on your website. But the big question is…do you have it set up correctly?

Actually, there are lots of important questions to ask here.

  • Do you have it set up correctly?
  • Are you tracking your campaigns using UTMs?
  • Are you structuring your UTMs correctly?
  • Are you utilizing goals to track conversions?
  • Do you have ecommerce tracking turned on so you can track what fundraising efforts lead to real donations and revenue?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” you might want to dive into an online course we’re launching on Google Analytics for Nonprofits in April 2020. (More info to come soon).

If you think you’re all set with your Google Analytics set up, let’s talk about some ways you can actually use your analytics data to drive your strategy.

Using Google Analytics to find Unexpected Content

One tested and proven strategy to acquire new online donors is to use advertise an “email offer” that leads to a landing page, that leads to an instant donation page. You can dig into that strategy in depth in this free webinar called Cracking the Code of Facebook Fundraising.

Google Analytics can help you discover what content your website traffic (and potential donors) may be interested in.

Google Search Console screenshot

For example, in Google Analytics, you can enable Google Search Console which will allow you to see what Google search queries are driving traffic to your website. Often times might find that there are topics driving traffic to you that you didn’t expect.

In this particular case, this organization (a Catholic missionary group) found that 10 of their top search keywords were related to “Novena” – a type of devotional prayer.

They took this unexpected discovery, created an eBook related to “novenas”, and plugged it right into their online donor acquisition strategy.

Example of an email acquisition to instant donor funnel

This newfound email offer generated new email signups, and also led to more people becoming new donors right away.

If you’re not already, start using Google Analytics for free here »


Rev logo

If you just go to and check out their services, you might not see how it relates to online fundraising right away. But the truth is that many major organizations are using Rev and tools like it to make their online fundraising efforts faster, more efficient, and more cost effective.

Rev provides transcription, captioning, and subtitles services. Just upload audio files like a podcast or link your latest video and they’ll have your file transcribes/captioned – often in less than 24 hours.

Now how in the world does this relate to online fundraising? I’m glad you asked.

Using Rev to streamline the creation of new content

One of the biggest bottlenecks in an online fundraising program is having the time and bandwidth to create new content like blogs, articles, eBooks, etc.

But good quality content is critical to growing and cultivating new and long-term donor relationships. Content is the primary way that we can keep donors in the loop about what type of impact they’re making through their support.

Here are 3 ways you can use Rev to streamline your content creation…

Turn an existing podcast into a blog post. If you have podcasts, radio broadcast, or even recorded meetings where you’re talking about your organizations impact – you can turn these into great blog content with ease.

Upload your audio recording to Rev, get a transcription back, and make a few edits. This will save you tons of writing time and give you a new piece of cultivating content to share with your donors.

Write the raw copy for an eBook by transcribing a presentation.

eBooks are one of the best tools that fundraisers have to acquire new emails that lead to new donors. They help potential donors learn more about your organizations, experience your impact, and they require an email to download.

But the hardest part of getting an eBook created is writing the content. On the other hand, you can fairly easily whip together a presentation – like you might for a board member or major donor – and record yourself presenting on a topic related to your organization.

Rev will help you transcribe your audio, and within 24 hours, you have all the copy you need to put your next email acquisition offer together.

Have you seen any of our nonprofit research studies? Every single one of them has used Rev to get the basis for the copy.

Get your videos “social media ready” by adding captions.

“As much as 85 percent of video views happen with the sound off.” – Digiday

Most people are consuming video-based content on social media – like Facebook, Instagram, etc. – with the sound off. That makes captioning all the more important and critical to delivering your message effectively.

Screenshot of a video using captions

Here’s a screenshot from a video I made for an ad just a little bit ago promoting a webinar. Knowing most people watch video with the sound off, I added some captions to make sure people could read what I was saying.

Again, Rev makes this super easy so you can make all your videos mobile friendly and engaging for social media viewers.

Check out how Rev can help you start creating more new content here »


Rev will help you turn existing broadcasts, presentations, podcasts, etc. into usable copy. But if you need an editor or a designer to help bring your content to life, Fiverr has got your back.

While there are lots of benefits to insourcing editors and designers, most editing and design work for online fundraising is quick and simple jobs that can be outsourced to anyone with basic editing experience or proficiency in photoshop.

Fiverr is a go-to online fundraising tool for us at NextAfter (and a bunch of other nonprofit fundraisers) for projects like:

  • Laying out copy for an eBook
  • Proofreading your blog posts and articles
  • Whipping up some social media graphics to promote a post
  • Designing ad creative for your latest email acquisition offer

Honestly, you can find someone to help you with pretty much any project on Fiverr. And the prices are nearly impossible to beat.

If you’re hesitant to outsource an important project, hire two people to work on it to get two different concepts. You’ll still come in way under the cost of most design agencies out there.

Check out what you can outsource through Fiverr here »


Unbounce can serve you in two super critical areas where you might normally have to seek out a web developer. We use Unbounce for our own marketing at NextAfter, we use it in fundraising programs with virtually every organization we work with. And we recommend to EVERYONE because it’s that important.

Here are the two components that make Unbounce an essential online fundraising tool…

Unbounce will help you build landing pages without a developer

In my own experience at a nonprofit, web developer time was super hard to come by. And from most folks I talk to, that seems to be a common experience. Maybe you don’t even have a web developer at your organization.

But you need landing pages for your online fundraising efforts. In particular, if you have an email offer like a quiz, petition, eBook download, or even newsletter signup – you need a landing page where someone can learn more and sign up.

Unbounce lets you cut out the need for a web developer, and design email acquisition landing pages yourself. You get full design flexibility, it integrates with most major email marketing platforms out there, and you can a/b test different designs with ease to see what’s most effective.

If you want a quick example of this tool in action, our webinar registration page is built entirely in Unbounce.

Unbounce will help you acquire email addresses across your website (again, without a developer)

One of the best features of Unbounce is their sticky bars and pop-ups. They call them “Convertables.”

That’s because they’re super easy to implement tools that help you convert your website traffic into email addresses that you can begin to cultivate.

All you have to do is install a little snippet of code, and you can start showing off your latest and greatest email offer (eBook, newsletter, etc) to people all over your website.

You can show these “convertables” to everyone, or you can get specific and target particular locations, people who engage on specific pages, visitors that stay on a page for a certain length of time, etc.

Here’s a screenshot of what the editor looks like to create these different pop-ups and sticky bars:

A/B test using sticky bars to increase donations

Again, you can do this without needing a developer to code some fancy little email capture tool for you. Just use the built-in design and form tools right in Unbounce.

Unbounce sticky bars could boost revenue on your mobile donation page

Here’s a bonus idea for you. In a recent experiment, CaringBridge testing using a stick bar on their donation page to reinforce why someone should donate.

The original page was just the standard donation page. But they designed two different variations of the page that each used a sticky bar to re-iterate the importance of donating.

Unbounce pop-up editor screenshot

Treatment 2 led to a 13% increase in donations on mobile devices because it helped mobile users quickly and clearly see what type of an impact their donation would have.

You can sign up for Unbounce and try out in your online fundraising here »

Google Optimize

All these other online fundraising tools are helping you actually create something new – determining new content opportunities, transcribing audio to help write copy, getting things designed, and building pages/ads.

Once you have these different tools, offers, and ads in place – you’re far from finished with your campaign. Everything can be optimized, and Google Optimize is there to help you figure out how to optimize your results.

There’s no excuse for not signing up for Google Optimize – it’s free!

Once you have it set up, you can run an A/B test on any page your website – including your homepage, landing pages, articles, and even your donation page.

An a/b test you can easily run using Google Optimize

If you’re not sure what exactly Google Optimize can do for you, let me give you an example.

Illinois Policy Institute ran a very simple experiment on their donation page. They wondered if they could increase donor conversion by adding more copy explaining why someone should give.

The original page had one small line of copy saying “Together, we’re writing the next chapter of Illinois’ comeback story.”

They created a variation of the page that 4 paragraphs of copy explaining the problem they were trying to solve and how a donation would make an impact.

This test could be set up with ease in Google Optimize. You don’t have to touch a line of code – just click to edit the copy, paste in your new copy, and turn on your test.

Google Optimize will send 50% of your traffic the original page, and 50% of the traffic to the new page. You can monitor the results along the way, and it will alert you when you have a winner.

The result?

Results of a donation page a/b test

This organization saw a 150% increase in donations just by adding some copy.

What do you think? Can you justify using a free tool in order to see a potential 150% increase in donations? I would imagine so.

You can get a free Google Optimize account here »


SlyBroadcast is the best most unknown online fundraising tool out there. Like most of these tools, it’s not designed specifically for nonprofits and fundraising.

While it’s not specifically designed for nonprofits, it is designed to help you connect with people – which is what fundraising is all about.

SlyBroadcast helps make it possible for you to connect with your whole donor file over the phone.

That sounds impossible, but it’s pretty sly in the way it works. Get it? SLY-broadcast?

Robo-callers and recorded messages played over a phone call are super annoying ad likely do more harm than good. But SlyBroadcast lets you record a personal message and slip into the voicemail box.

This means you can send out a thank you message to all of your donors via voicemail after they give. On their phone, it looks they have a missed call, and they’ll see your message in their voicemail.

In most cases, this can prompt them to give you a call back when they have a quick second to say hello and chat.

SlyBroadcast platform screenshot

This type of strategy will help you do 2 things…

  1. You get to leave a positive, personal impression on each one of your donors.
  2. You don’t have to spend every waking moment of your day making phone calls.

Sign up for SlyBroadcast here » And if you use the referral code 15724f100, you’ll get 100 free messages.

What other online fundraising tools do you use?

None of the tools I’ve listed above have asked to be featured in this blog. No one is paying me to mention them.

These are just great tools the we swear by, and I really think you should try out in our own fundraising programs. Used with the right strategy, these can help you manage your time better, improve efficiency, and grow your revenue.

But I’m always curious…are there tools you’re using in your own fundraising efforts that people should know about?

Share your favorite unexpected online fundraising tools in the comments. I’d love to hear what you’re using and how you’re using it.

About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

What I learned after signing up for 180 nonprofit email lists

Published by Allan Torres

My name is Allan Torres and I recently became the Optimization and Marketing Intern at NextAfter. My time so far has been a crazy whirlwind of learning, adapting, and having my world opened to new experiences. Recently, one of these experiences was a research study everyone here at NextAfter embarked on.

The Mission

The task was to visit over 180 non-profit organizations’ home pages and sign-up for their email subscription. We kept track of the entire process while looking at things like:

  • Different types of friction
  • What was in it for the email subscriber
  • Did the organization have a value proposition? This would be some sort of an offer such as an eBook, newsletter, online course or something else.

We’re still analyzing all the data, but I wanted to share 3 key lessons learned by signing up for 180 nonprofit email lists.

“Sign Up for Email” is not a proper incentive

Most people don’t hand out their personal information just because you ask for it. And most people aren’t motivated to give you their email address just because you have a newsletter. An incentive can give someone a tangible reason to give you their contact information.

A whopping 83% of the organizations that we looked only offered some sort of a newsletter. We have seen that offers that go above and beyond a newsletter are generally more effective over time. Some of these offers include:

  • Petitions
  • eBooks
  • Online Courses

You may think that these “offers” could add friction because they require time to go through or “cost” the prospective donor time. However, sometimes there needs to be a small amount of cost. We have found that the increasing amount of investment that someone spends on your offer has a significant impact on their likelihood to eventually become a donor.

I would love to know the difference in these organizations’ email acquisition rates if the 83% who only had a newsletter, began to offer something else like an eBook, online course, or even a petition.

It’s super hard to find where to sign up”

We also looked at the friction that was present when signing up for emails. When we talk about friction, we mean anything that is either a distraction or a roadblock, in this case, a roadblock stopping one from providing their email. Something I personally noticed was that many of the websites did not have a clear location of where to provide your email address. Some did not even have an opportunity to acquire your email address because there wasn’t a spot for it (see image below.) If I cannot find where to sign up for an email subscription in under 10 seconds, chances are others are having a hard time as well.

What did I just sign up for?

Another question we asked while combing through these websites was “Is it clearly communicated what you will be receiving by signing up?” We answered the question on a scale of

  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Undecided
  • or Agree

The results were surprising. Only 34% of organizations received a score of Agree. Which means 66% of the organizations did not communicate clearly or effectively. Lack of clarity can also be another form of friction. How can someone make a decision to give you an email address if they do not understand what is being offered to them in exchange?

Below are three examples from three different organizations. By reading the sign up prompt, can you tell what is being offered or what the person signing up can expect to arrive in their inbox?

Some questions that your organization may want to think about when writing copy for your offer are:

  • What the donor will get?
  • How often?
  • When they’ll receive the first one?
  • What benefit it has for the person signing up?

Here is a fantastic example of how just a small amount of copy significantly improves the communication of what this particular newsletter offers.

There’s so much opportunity for growth

This blog post is not meant to be negative; it is worth noting what changes an organization can make to improve their email acquisition. If you need or would like a refresher this Complete Guide to Email Acquisition is a great place to start.

When it comes down to it, I’m not the expert on what works to grow your email file. No one here at NextAfter is the expert. And as much as this might sting…you’re not either.

The only people who are experts at what works to get someone to say “yes” and sign up are your donors and potential donors.

In order to learn what works, we’ve tested and tested different offers, value propositions, designs, and more to measure what actually increases the likelihood of someone signing up for your email list.

You can dig deeper into what we’ve seen works to increase conversion and grow the size of your email file in this Complete Guide to Email Acquisition.

Truth be told, no guide is ever really “complete.” We always need to be testing and learning what really works.

About the author:

Allan Torres

Allan Torres

Allan is the Associate Marketing Specialist for NextAfter. He assists with marketing content creation and distribution. He is also a passionate Madridista (Real Madrid fan.) #HALAMADRID

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

“How we do we get our emails in that doggone inbox?” This was the first of a few great questions Tim Kachuriak (NextAfter) asked Brian Davis (Active Engagement) when they sat down together in this episode of Optimization Insider, filmed at the 2018 NIO Summit.

Tim and Brian discuss optimizing emails, avoiding the dreaded spam folders and the practice of fine-tuning an email strategy instead of focusing on the content inside the email.

Watch the full episode below. Or, you can check out all of the NIO Summit sessions for free.

About the author:

Allan Torres

Allan Torres

Allan is the Associate Marketing Specialist for NextAfter. He assists with marketing content creation and distribution. He is also a passionate Madridista (Real Madrid fan.) #HALAMADRID

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

What Does GDPR Do to Online Fundraising?

Published by Nathan Hill

GDPRThe hot topic of the day is GDPR. So I’ve been trying to do my fair share of research on what it means for nonprofits over the past month (yes, I’ve been procrastinating on getting up to speed).

Through my searching and conversations, the one consistent theme I’ve found is this:

No one wants to definitively say anything about the effect that GDPR has on nonprofits.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s an insane number of articles and pages that dive right into the weeds of the legal jargon. But the people able to interpret what that means for the average marketer or fundraiser are few and far between.

While we’re certainly not a legal expert on the ins and outs of what GDPR means for your organization, we are experts at putting the regulations to the test and seeing what impact it could have.

So we identified the express consent rules that GDPR requires companies and organizations to abide by, and put them to the test on a major nonprofit’s email acquisition page.

Let’s see what happened…

Putting GDRP to the Test

Part of the GDPR requires that companies and organizations obtain consent from a user in order to send email. Seems straight forward.

You may be saying (like I did initially) “Oh, that sounds like CASL a couple years ago. No big deal.” CASL actually allows you to get away with “implicit consent,” meaning that if someone downloads an eBook, signs up for a course, signs a petition, etc. – they have given you implied consent to email them.

GDPR requires express consent.

Simply put, express consent requires clear language and a check box. So on your forms, you have to specifically ask something to the effect of “Do you want us to email you?”

*Disclaimer – there’s a lot more to GDPR compliance than just giving consent to send emails. Here’s a pretty good high-level summary of everything it requires.

The premise of our test is around express consent. We wondered “Will asking for express consent on an acquisition offer affect conversions?”

What Did the Test Look Like?

GDPR ControlThe control (or the original version) landing page offered a free digital guide to the constitution. It was pretty straight forward:

  • Clear headline
  • Easy to read, bulleted copy
  • Clear image of the offer
  • 5 star reviews in the right column
  • A form collecting first, last, and email address

There was also a little checkbox below where someone could opt-in to a specific email newsletter. It looked pretty similar to our email acquisition landing page guide.

For the treatment (or the new version we tested), we made one tiny change. We added another little checkbox with some text next to it saying:

“By requesting the resource, I understand that I will receive access to the Guide to the Constitution and occasional updates from [Organization].

If the user checked the box, we could email them later. If not, well…we can’t.

And the Winner Is?

GDPR TreatmentYour gut instinct is probably right on this one. The GDPR compliant language decreased acquisition rates by 15%.

If you want to know more about why this decrease occurred, check out this article on the 7 types of friction. The reason is probably a combination of decision friction, field number friction, and maybe a little bit of anxiety.

So there’s good news and bad news here. I’ll start with bad so we can end on an optimistic note… (I’m an optimist by nature)

The bad news – This kind of drop in acquisition leads to revenue loss as well. If you aren’t adding as many to your email file, you won’t have as large of a file to ask for donations to your cause. Plus, you lose out on instant revenue from your instant donation pages.

And if you don’t comply, you could potentially face some pretty insane fines. There’s a lot of debate on how compliant you need to be if you’re not in the EU, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The good news – The likely scenario is that you have a slightly higher quality email file as a result of express consent. We often see that as friction increases, quality increases because only users with a higher motivation will make it the end of the acquisition process.

Motivation vs Friction

Here’s a post from Jeff on how motivation and friction work hand in hand.

The other good news ­– GDPR is not the end of all hope for fundraising optimization and growth. In fact, optimization and testing could potentially help get us to a place where these requirements don’t really make a significant impact on acquisition rates. Or at least not as substantially as a 15% decrease.

Here are a couple hypotheses that we could test on this GDPR compliance language to try and mitigate the decrease in conversion:

  • Make it less legalese sounding“Yes, I’d like to receive the Guide to the Constitution and other updates from [Organization].”
  • Add exclusivity ­“Yes, please send me the Guide to the Constitution and other insider updates from [Organization] to keep me up-to-date on the most pressing issues.”
  • Decrease additional friction ­– Remove the second checkbox for the newsletter opt-in to see if simply the presence of a second checkbox was the key element of friction.

Certainly, there are many more hypotheses we could test. And we will.

If you want to see more details from this experiment, you can read the full GDPR compliance experiment write up.

Other GDPR Resources

Our friends at Litmus have put together a few helpful resources that might help you figure out what GDPR means for your organization. Take a look at these for some additional insights:

  1. GDPR: What Europe’s New Privacy Law Means for Email Marketers
  2. 5 Things You Must Know about Email Consent under GDPR
  3. GDPR Re-permission Campaigns: 6 Tips for Making Them a Success

And if you want to enter full legal counsel mode…you can read the full text of the GDPR regulations.

About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

What I Learned from 152 Email Signups from 152 Organizations

Published by Brady Josephson

Before I worked for NextAfter, one of the resources I used and referenced most was the Online Fundraising Scorecard. I found it incredibly useful to see what other organizations were doing, what they weren’t doing, and what I could or should be doing. So when I joined the team and we decided to do a new version of the scorecard, and with Canadian organizations, I was pumped.

I also didn’t know what I was getting into.

Have you ever signed up for emails for 152 organizations? If your answer is yes, I want to know your story friend. But it’s not as easy or as simple as it sounds for a lot of reasons (more on that below) but it was fascinating to see so many sites, offers, and forms back to back to back to back to back to back to back… you get the point. Signing up for emails is one of four key areas that we’ll look at in the study — along with email communication, donation experience, and acknowledgment — and with the first part done, I wanted to share…

6 Things I Learned from Doing 152 Email Signups to 152 Organizations

Let’s start with the positives.

1. Organizations were “pretty good” at making the email signup quick and findable

It took me more than 10 seconds to find the email signup for only 17% of organizations compared to 24% in the original Online Fundraising Scorecard. For 75% of organizations, I could sign up for their emails in less than 2 clicks from the homepage — compared to 64% in the original Online Fundraising Scorecard. And, in total, 67% provided an email signup within 10 seconds and less than 2 clicks.

While that is “pretty good” (relative to the original Online Fundraising Scorecard) it also means that for 33% of organizations, it either takes more than 10 seconds or more than 2 clicks to signup for an email. Being able to easily find out how to signup for emails — for those rare people who are seeking that out — should common practice so I think there’s still some room to improve here.

And… that concludes the positive part of this post.

But before things get more negative — and I embed GIFs from me live tweeting this experience — let me just say that I love the charities and nonprofits working to change and impact our world for good. Truly. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t believe in them and the sector overall or devote all of my professional life to work with, for, and alongside them.

On to the more negative section (but also full of GIFs).

2. Not every organization wants to get and send emails.

25 out of the original pool of 152 organizations (16%) either provided no way to sign up from the website or had a broken form and did not respond with a way that I could sign up within 5 days after I reached out to see how I could get their email updates.

I was expecting some of the later findings, but this one truthfully took me by surprise and I found this quite shocking. My thinking was that even if email wasn’t the number one source for online donations for these organizations — as it is for many nonprofits and a lot of our clients — I thought it was generally recognized that capturing and sending emails was a useful thing to do when it comes to online fundraising. Apparently not.

And many of these organizations weren’t new, hyper-local, or small either. There were some pretty major organizations (revenues over $50M) that were in this group. I suppose there may be some reasons for not allowing or wanting email signups — like being a national entity with local and provincial chapters — but even then I don’t believe they are good enough to not allow or want people to engage with you in a high-value channel like email.

3. You really can get a crappy newsletter anywhere.

Well, I guess based on #2 above not anywhere… but almost anywhere.

For this report, to assess the value proposition associated with an email sign-up offer, I tried to rank the appeal and exclusivity of that offer. For appeal, I tried to assess whether or not, as a donor, I would be highly interested in the offer, somewhat interested, or not interested at all. For exclusivity, I tried to determine if the email offer was something I could find nowhere else, somewhere else, or anywhere else. This is the same method we used in the original Online Fundraising Scorecard.

Here are the less than ideal results:

  • Only 6% of organizations offered something with ‘high interest’
  • Only 8% of organizations offered something people couldn’t get anywhere else
  • In total, only 10% of organizations had an offer that scored over 2
  • The average score was 0.48 and the median score was… 0

Instead of harping on the negative here — and there is a lot to be negative about — let’s think about the other side of the equation and all the opportunity! Just by simply starting to offering something that is appealing and something that is even somewhat exclusive means you can quickly and easily stand out from all the other newsletters out there.

4. Organizations are not using enough copy to communicate their offer

One of the biggest lessons I’ve seen from our research and experiments is that there is immense power and value in copy (your text and writing). In fact, the most important tool you have to communicate your value proposition is your copy. Yet in this study, only 32% of organizations used more than one sentence to state their case as to why someone should sign up for their emails. That’s less than a third that are even trying to use what we’ve seen as the most powerful tool when it comes to email acquisition.

I don’t know if this is because the people wrongly assume people don’t read, they are getting advice that it’s all about the design, videos, or images (it’s not), or if people just aren’t spending enough time caring and testing when it comes to trying to get emails but this was one of the most discouraging findings.

But, again, instead of looking at the negative — like where the heck is everyone getting their conversion and email signup suggestions from — the upside is that, most likely, by using more copy to explain in a way a potential donor can understand (clarity trumps persuasion!) why they would like your emails and how they are unique compared to others you should be able to get more visitors to become email subscribers.

5. Organizations are not taking advantage of the confirmation page.

The confirmation page — the page you are should be taken to after an action like an email sign up — is one of the most underutilized tools in the online fundraiser and digital marketers’ toolbox. It makes it easier to set up goals/tracking in Google Analytics so you can see where your sign-ups are coming from and even run some experiments but at the very least, confirmation pages should:

  • Confirm the action that someone took
  • Thank them for that action
  • Let them know what they should expect because of that action

If landing pages should be conversational in their tone and approach — as our research and findings suggest — then not having a confirmation page is like walking away in the middle of a conversation. Imagine if you invited a friend over for dinner, they say yes, and you say… nothing. Not thanks. No ‘see you then’. Just silence. How weird would that be?

But that’s what many organizations are doing as 61% of organizations did not have a confirmation page of any kind.

So, just to recap, if you wanted to sign up for email, found it, and got over the fact that there was, most likely, very little value being communicated to you and you still went ahead and signed up for emails you had a 60% chance to be greeted with… nothing. No confirmation. No thank you. Nothing.

There is clearly a lot of room to grow with just having a confirmation page but beyond simply having one, they can, and should, be used more strategically to engage donors and move them toward another action — follow, share, take a survey, etc. — and even a donation with something like an instant donation page. That may sound counterintuitive — didn’t they just sign up to get email updates from you? — but they’ve already made a bunch of micro ‘yes’ decisions which builds up cognitive momentum so asking or encouraging another greater action just keeps the momentum going which is why we’ve seen conversion rates on these pages anywhere from half a percent up to 10% or even 20%.

Remember that scenario where you invited your friends to dinner, and they said yes? This is kind of like asking them — now that they’ve shown interest in your dinner — if they can bring a dessert or a salad. If you just asked if they’d bring a salad that would be weird. But once they’ve said yes to coming it’s actually pretty natural. Many people will even ask “what can I bring”. Think of your confirmation page with an instant donation page kind of like that.

Yet only 7% of organizations in the study had an ask for donations (of any kind) on their confirmation pages. And only 1 had anything like a specific ask with a form on the page.

Again, there is ample room to experiment with this low-cost approach to more quickly turn email signups into donors.

6. Many tools and templates organizations are using suck.

As I went through the process of signing up for 152 emails, I ran into some pretty poor sites, pages, and forms.

Like being asked to provide my email twice on consecutive screens (and then not having a confirmation page):

Or needing to create and register for an account to just get emails:

Or having a good offer… only show up if you’re on a desktop or laptop:

Or requiring information but not telling me about it until I submit all the information:

Those are just a few. I’d say the majority of my Tweets/GIFs/frustrations were actually about the tools, sites, and user experience as there was a lot of friction (form fields, information required, decisions to make, etc.) and anxiety (Is my information secure? Did I actually sign up?). Much of this is down to the tools being used which are either poor (overall) or need to be customized to be better and people/organizations either don’t care or don’t know how to do that.

In either case, while I have a lot of empathy (truly), it is still a choice to use a crappy tool or do nothing to improve the experience you are providing donors. One of the goals of this report is to shed light on some of these areas and findings in the hope that more people will care and do something about it.

For me, you, and all of your donor’s sakes… let’s hope so!

Summary & Infographic

Those were some of the early findings and things I’ve learned in the process and here’s a handy infographic with more of the key stats so far as it relates to email signups:

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Learn from 152 Canadian Charities and 1,200 experiments to improve your email signup process as well as email fundraising strategy, donation pages, and overall online giving experience.

About the author:


Brady Josephson

Brady is a charity nerd. He's an adjunct professor, fundraising writer, speaker, and podcast host and a huge Liverpool FC fan (#YNWA). At NextAfter, he oversees training and research to help nonprofits raise more money online to fund their life-changing work.

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A Complete Guide to Email Acquisition

Published by Tim Kachuriak

Why is nonprofit email acquisition optimization so important?

In our time researching and talking about this topic, a lot of people have asked us, “How is email acquisition applicable in the non-profit space?” The primary reason that growing the size of your email file is so important is this: email is the single largest source of online fundraising revenue for the vast majority of nonprofits.

Here’s what I mean:

Nonprofit Email Acquisition Optimization - Organization 1

It’s not a secret. Email is king when it comes to raising money online. The graph shown here is from one of our partners. The blue line represents traffic across all of their different traffic mediums, and the orange bar represents revenue. As you may have deduced, this organization has a very large email file. This is why email is the largest source of traffic.

But take a look at the relationship between the email traffic and revenue. Compared to the higher-traffic sources like organic search and direct visitors (none), revenue far outpaces traffic. Even compared to other direct response sources like mail, radio, DRTV, paid Facebook (newsfeed), you can’t get a better ‘bang for you buck’ as you can with email.

And here’s another client:

Nonprofit Email Acquisition Optimization - Organization 2

And another:

Nonprofit Email Acquisition Optimization - Organization 3

And another:

Nonprofit Email Acquisition Optimization - Organization 4

I hope you can see here just how important email fundraising is to these organizations. And just in case you’re not totally convinced, here are 4 quick stats that illustrate the impact that email file growth can have at a nonprofit:

  • Offline donors can be up to 90% more valuable when you have their email address.
  • Retention increases by 29% for offline donors when you have their email address.
  • Multi-channel donors can be 212% more valuable for your organization than offline-only donors.
  • Multi-channel donors have a 56% higher retention rate than offline-only donors.

So now the question is, how can you go about growing your email list? Well, you’re in the right place and reading the right post. Below, we’ll walk you through 7 proven ways that we’ve found to help grow the size and quality of your list but first, we have to start with…

Understanding the Value Exchange, Value Proposition, and Content Offers

When developing any sort of donor acquisition campaign, the first essential ingredient is an effective content offer. Without a good offer, you’ll have nothing to advertise to your likely donors. And if you aren’t capturing the attention of likely donors, you’ll never convert new ones.

So then, how do we create a winning content offer that will capture the attention of likely donors and influence them to give a gift?

Through our research and testing, we’ve identified three principles to guide you as you consider what kind of content offer to use for your donor acquisition efforts.

1. Your content offer cannot – and will not – appeal to everyone.

Not everyone is a prospective donor for your organization. We must understand this, or we’ll be continually disappointed.

For example, if you run a food bank in a specific city, you might create an eBook offer that explores the scale of poverty and hunger in your city. But this kind of offer won’t appeal to people who live in a different city, state, or country.

The key to success is defining who your likely donors are, developing an offer that will be relevant to them, and strategically targeting them with your advertising.

Demographic Targeting

Demographic Targeting for Facebook Ads

We often hear stories of fundraisers who develop an offer like this, set up a Facebook ad campaign without any targeting, and then wonder why no one is clicking, downloading, or donating. And it’s because there are 1.8 billion active Facebook users – most of which aren’t interested in your offer.

2. Your content offer must deliver more value than it costs.

People aren’t looking for a reason to take your offer. People are looking for a reason to move on and do something else, especially on Facebook. So for an offer to be successful, it has to be higher in value than it is in cost.

You might ask “What cost does my offer have if I’m giving it away for free?” While there may not be a monetary cost for your offer, asking for someone’s name and email address creates cost. They have to give something up in order to receive your offer.

We also create cost when we increase the amount of effort it takes to get the offer. For instance, a petition has very low cost. Someone will read through your petition and sign their name to it by giving you their email address, all within a matter of seconds.

Cost Force vs Value Force

On the other hand, an offer like an online course has a very high cost. It requires the user to dedicate a significant amount of time in order to read, listen to, or watch the course. In both of these cases, the value of the offer needs to outweigh the perceived cost.

If we get this out of balance, and the perceived cost is greater than the value of the offer, you’re going to see very low conversion rates.

How perceived cost affects value

However, sometimes there needs to be a small amount of cost. We have found that the increasing amount of investment that someone spends on your offer has a significant impact on their likelihood to eventually become a donor.

Investment and Conversion Rate of Various Content Offers

Petitions have very little investment and cost. They are great opportunities to get cheap emails because a lot of people will fill them out. But we’ve seen that the donor conversion rate is usually low.

A quiz requires a little more investment of time and effort, but they also require an added level of intellectual engagement. This helps people understand the problem to which your organization offers the solution. Because of this extra investment, we have seen a 2.73% average donor conversion rate with this type of offer.

An e-book might take around 10 minutes to read. But when people are willing to invest in that time, they have a much higher likelihood of donating. An online course can take several weeks, but it has almost a 6% donor conversion rate.

From this data we can draw the conclusion:

When people are willing to invest their time, they may be more willing to invest their money.

3. Your content offer must be relevant to your mission.

For example, it doesn’t make sense for a breast cancer awareness foundation or humanitarian organization to give away the Texas Almanac as a free offer. But this offer has meaning when it comes from the Texas State Historical Association.

There are all kinds of offers out there that you could give away, but you have to ensure that they line up with what your cause is about.

One of my favorite places to find an offer is to walk to the receptionist’s desk at a nonprofit organization. Most of the time there are pamphlets and written content like magazines or books that never make their way into the digital world. We can digitize those products and offer them because they have value packed inside.

Hopefully, these parameters help you begin to understand what it takes to create an effective offer. Target your offers to your ideal donor. Make sure your offer delivers more value than it costs. And make sure your offer is relevant to your mission.

Alright, now on to 7 ways you can grow the size and quality of your email list!

1. Writing Effective Copy

The most important factor that influences conversion is your value proposition. And the most important tool you have to communicate your value proposition is your copy. When writing email acquisition copy, clarity equals persuasion.

The goal is to communicate the value of the offer as clearly as possible.

Communicating your value proposition in email acquisition copy

Experiment #1621

Communicating value proposition - ControlOur research partner for this experiment is Alliance Defending Freedom. The purpose was to test email acquisition copy on their homepage. This page was receiving about 12,000 visitors each month, and less than 1% were giving their email address.

The initial signup offer was very simple.

We decided to add a call-to-action in the headline. We changed the copy to sound like less a command, and included value proposition language to identify the benefits of giving an email address. Lastly, we added a button that communicated real value.

Communicating value proposition - TreatmentThe difference in the A/B split test was a 44.1% increase in the number of email signups.

Every interaction with a visitor is a potential for a value exchange. Maximize that opportunity by choosing the best potential way to communicate your value to the visitor.

Eliminating Copy that slows down your visitor

Experiment #2313

In some cases, optimizing your email signup offer by adding copy will increase its value. But sometimes there is too much copy on the page, and it needs to be condensed.

In the initial offer, there is a large block of copy for the visitor to work through before giving their email. We wondered if this slowed down the visitor’s ability to move through the form, so we removed it entirely.

Eliminating Copy

The difference in the A/B split test was a 26.2% increase in the number of email signups acquired.

Choosing the right copy

Experiment #2606

More important than adding to or subtracting from your email acquisition copy is choosing the right copy. After our breakthrough on Experiment #1621 (our first example), we tested a few variations of language within the copy to see how it influenced conversion. Here’s what we tested:

2606 - Control and Treatment

We found that different language represented a different value proposition, and in this case, the treatment was less attractive to our audience. Conversion decreased by 29.5%.

What we love about continual and consistent testing is that, whether your conversion rates increase or decrease, you will always evolve your understanding of your donors and subscribers. Most importantly, you gain more insight into what they value most, and you learn how to communicate better. Your website shouldn’t be just a collection area. It should be a place where you can listen and pay attention to data!

Clarifying the process-level value proposition

Experiment #833

Clarifying Value Proposition - ControlThis experiment was for Good of All for an email acquisition campaign. Traffic was driven to this page from Facebook, and visitors were offered an e-book in exchange for their email address.

As you can see, the initial call-to-action focuses on what you need to do instead of what you can get.

We decided to nuance how we communicated the value proposition and add clarity. Instead, we addressed the reader as a “fellow world-changer” and communicated the value of the offer rather than the action required. Then we added an intriguing question to draw in the reader. Here’s what the treatment looked like.

Clarifying Value Proposition - TreatmentWith these small changes, we received a 133.7% increase in the number of new emails acquired.

The goal of your copy – including the headline and call to action – should be to consistently and compellingly communicate value at every step.

Using visitor-focused language

Experiment #986

In this last example, we tested an email signup page for Hillsdale College. The purpose of the page was to get people to signup for their free course, “The Federalist Papers.”

We wondered if the word enrollment was a rough choice. For some, it implies filling out applications, or it brings back anxious memories of enrolling for classes at the start of a new semester. That wasn’t the picture we wanted to paint, so we decided to try a different approach.

Visitor Focused Language

We changed the call-to-action above the signup form, and left the remaining copy exactly the same. In comparison, activation suggests that the course is already in one’s possession; it only needs to be turned on, if you will. In contrast, enrollment suggests a series of work that needs to be done in order to access the course.

In an A/B split test, this treatment produced a 31% increase in the number of email signups received.

We discovered that activation language is a significantly more attractive way of describing what the user desires. Even if the internal goal is to get a user to enroll in the course, the user wants to activate the course immediately instead.

Wrap Up…

Each experiment above shows a different concept of manipulating your email acquisition copy. Overall, the elements you can test with copy are:

  • Adding copy
  • Subtracting copy
  • Different value propositions
  • Headlines
  • Body copy
  • Calls-to-action

The most important factor that influences your conversion rate is the value proposition. The words used to communicate that value are your most important tool. On every level of the page, the goal is to communicate the value of the offer as clearly as possible. Use copy to create some suspense within the readers to propel them forward into the page. Hopefully, these examples give you ideas to begin testing your own email signup offers right away!

2. Design an Effective Email Acquisition Landing Page

Your email acquisition page design should have just one goal: to facilitate the mental conversation between you and your visitor. If the design is too beautiful, it’s a distraction. If it’s too ugly, it’s a disgrace.

The goal is to strike a balance. The whole page design should focus intently on the offer that’s being communicated.

Using your email acquisition page design to clarify the header

Experiment #2684

In this example, we tested an element of copy – a header – that doubled as an element of design. We’ve noticed that it’s become somewhat of a website design standard to put a big block of imagery at the top of every page.

This page was for Hillsdale College as part of an email acquisition campaign. It uses a traditional page header that contains the headline for the landing page. Traffic was being driven to this page from a Facebook ad with a similar “We the People” design in the background and floating text to create congruency between them.

When we reviewed the page, we wondered if this design took up too much space. Was the key headline that conveyed the value proposition getting lost in the background?

To find out, we first removed the graphical header and created a new headline. This was Treatment 1.

Then, we created a second treatment. We still removed the graphical header but kept the headline exactly the same as the original page. This was Treatment 2.

Experiment 2684 - Results

Treatment 1 produced a 6.6% increase in conversion rate, and Treatment 2 produced a 9.2% increase.

For whatever reason – mental friction, distraction, etc. – we saw a lift in performance with both treatments by removing the header entirely and moving the headline into the content area. We created a tighter connection with the value proposition. After this, we began testing the headlines themselves and chose the one that conveyed a stronger value proposition.

The difference in these conversion rate percentages may seem minimal, but they’re meaningful because these are easy changes. Not every experiment on your email acquisition page design needs to produce huge results. Small changes like this get you one step closer to better conversion.

Visually reinforcing the value proposition

Experiment #1937

When a site has minimal traffic to begin with, testing small differences may not be the best place to start optimizing your email acquisition page design. When you have low traffic and small changes in conversion, tests normally take too long to validate.

Let’s look at a radical redesign example. This is an events signup page for Heritage Action for America. Traffic is being driven to this page from multiple sources, but primarily from Facebook and email. The goal of the page is to get people to sign up to attend their event.Experiment 1937 - Control

As you can see, the initial page is text-heavy. It focuses on communicating the value of becoming an insider and gaining exclusive access to this special forum being held for the upcoming presidential election.

The treatment version of the page is radically different. We wondered if we could use images to enhance the value proposition for attending the event, so we added a full-color image of each candidate that would be present. Then we nuanced the copy and the primary value proposition to focus on accountability.

Experiment 1937 - Treatment

Even though a visitor may not want to see each of these candidates at the event, it does communicate more clearly the value of actually attending.

This change produced a 28.8% increase in the number of signups for the event.

Doing a radical redesign of your page might be a great place to begin increasing your conversions. Consider starting over with a completely different hypothesis than what the existing page is portraying, and then test the differences against each other. Of course, there is always the possibility that a hypothesis produces negative results.

Regardless of the outcome, you will be able to discover exactly why the hypothesis was right or wrong and adjust the page accordingly. Be sure to document each test result to learn from each one and to confidently make changes to optimize the page.

Increasing congruence between your email acquisition page design and your ads

Experiment #314

This is an email signup page we treated for the Hoover Institution. Traffic is being driven to this page from a Facebook ad in order to sign up to receive their newsletter, Strategika.

We used a long-form page and a two-column layout. As you can see, there’s a branded header, a clear call to action, and plenty of copy to communicate what a person will receive by signing up. Overall, the page was performing well, but we wanted to make it better.Experiment 314 - Control

Here is the Facebook ad that drove people to the signup page. As you can see, they look very different.

Strategika Facebook Ad

We wondered if that difference was causing cognitive friction for the visitor, and decided to test it. We created a treatment that follows the same stylistic approach as the ad to create congruency between them. We matched the background image of the ad, and took the brand – which was unfamiliar to the visitor – out of the headline. Then, we highlighted the credibility factors instead of showing unknown contributors. This treatment uses less copy, and follows the same design theme introduced by the ad.

Experiment 314 - Treatment

The treatment produced a 39.2% increase in the number of email signups.

Not only did it increase conversion on the page, but we also reduced the cost per subscriber by 86%! This is because we were sending paid traffic from Facebook advertising to this signup page. Every boost in performance, in terms of conversion, means that it costs less per subscriber to grow the email file.

The key insight we learned from this experiment is that the site visitor is more likely to respond when the ad and the landing page maintain a consistent visual experience.

Wrap Up…

A well-balanced email acquisition page design is important. Review your page, and make sure that the entire design focuses on the offer that is being communicated. If it doesn’t, consider a radical redesign of your signup page, or adding congruency between several pages. The goal of the design is to facilitate the mental conversation between you and your visitor.

Get the free email acquisition landing page guide and discover 13 ways you can improve your email acquisition page today.

3. Think About Thought-Sequencing

Every time you ask for something – whether it’s a donation or just an email signup – you are entering a mental conversation with your visitor. To increase the potential for success, it is important that the thought sequence of that conversation take place in the proper order.

Briefly imagine if you were approached by a stranger on the street, and they said, “Hey, my name’s Tim. Can I have your business card? I’m going to call you later!”

You probably would give this person a weird look, and think, “No way, I don’t know you! Of course, you can’t have my contact information! Leave me alone.”

We would never give away something valuable to us, like our contact information, just because someone asks for it. The same is true online.

Not only does it matter how we ask, but the order in which we ask for someone’s information is crucial. When we ask for it out of order, we create anxiety in the mind of the person on the other side of the screen.

Reordering the elements of your landing page

Experiment #1692

This is an email acquisition page for an e-book offer for the Stanford Graduate School of Business. They have a good headline at the top of the page, and they use a three-column layout that mirrors their branding throughout the site. As you can see, they include third-party credibility indicators at the bottom of the page.

Do you notice any problems?

Landing Page Thought Sequence - Experiment 1692 - Control

Notice your eye-movement as you work through page. A visitor has to read the copy in the first column, then move back to the top of the page to view the book, and then come back up again to complete the signup form. Up, down, up, down, up, down.

The horizontal layout forces you to slow down to work through the page, and affects the thought sequence leading to the final call-to-action.

We wondered if reorienting the thought sequence would affect the conversion rate on the page.

First, we put all these elements in a linear path from top to bottom of the page to create a more effective flow. We changed the headline to convey value, gave the copy contextual placement near the form, and moved the email acquisition form into the eye-path of the visitor. Then, we moved the book image and credibility indicators to the right column as supporting content. Below the first paragraph is the call-to-action restated as an opportunity to respond.

Landing Page Thought Sequence - Experiment 1692 - Treatment

The treatment produced an increase in conversion by 10.8%.

Matching branding throughout the site is not enough. Each landing page must be optimized to maximize perceived value and minimize perceived cost.

Re-ordering the thought sequence of your landing page

Experiment #2472

This example is based on a similar concept.

The design below is something I call “above the fold.” For some reason, we’ve been taught to include all the important information in a header at the top of the page.

Landing Page Thought Sequence - Experiment 2472 - Control

The “above the fold” idea was originally created for traditional newspapers so that a folded paper on a newsstand would still display the daily headlines. To see more, the reader has to physically pick up the paper and unfold it.

This problem doesn’t exist online, and yet, so often we follow this same practice! Scrolling up and down through a page is different than unfolding a newspaper, so our websites should function differently.

In this experiment, we reordered the elements on the page, removing the “above the fold” design and created a vertical sequencing path from top to bottom.

Landing Page Thought Sequence - Experiment 2472 - Treatment

The treatment produced a 7.7% lift in conversion on the page.

Wrap Up…

Re-ordering page elements to create a top-to-bottom flow is a simple, easy change you can make on any page. Think of it like a real, face-to-face conversation you’re having with the person on the other side of the screen. The order of the conversation is crucial. Don’t jump the natural sequencing process and require too much too early.

Having a natural and logical thought sequence on your landing page is essential to reducing friction and anxiety on your landing page. But there are many other factors that can cause friction and keep your potential donors from taking that first step to connect with you.

4. Choose the Right Incentive

When choosing your email acquisition incentive, you must present something that the visitor perceives to be of greater value than their personal contact information.

What do I mean by an email acquisition incentive?

An incentive is an appealing bonus that increases the perceived value of your offer. It is used best in conjunction with a good value proposition. You could use e-books, white papers, downloads, access to a special resource center, signing a name to a petition, additional resources, articles, and so much more.

The incentive should inspire people to enter a value exchange.

Testing to determine the right incentive

Experiment #1355

In this example, we tested three unique incentives against each other using an email acquisition form for the Texas State Historical Association.

Email Acquisition Incentive - Treatments

Visitors complete a ten-question education quiz over Texas history called “Are you Smarter than a Texas Seventh-Grader?” Each question was based on real material taught in seventh-grade classrooms throughout the state. It was designed as a unique way for people to experience their value proposition as an organization.

The goal of the final page was to present the visitor with an opportunity to learn more about the Texas State Historical Association. This page offered one of several prizes in exchange for an email address.

The initial incentive was a free chapter of the Texas Almanac. We tested this against Treatment 1, an e-book about the Battle of the Alamo. We also developed a second Treatment, a compilation of several scholarly essays produced through their Southwestern Historical Quarterly.

After conducting an A/B/C/D test, we discovered that Treatment 1 produced a 50% increase in conversion and Treatment 2 produced an 14% increase.

Email Acquisition Incentive - Results

By running this split test with different incentives, we were able to identify what specific offer would be most appealing to our target audience. In doing so, the TSHA achieved increased acquisition in their campaign.

This is an easy way to evolve your incentive into the best possible offer for your audience!

Creating an Email Acquisition Incentive From Existing Content

You might be thinking you don’t have the right content to run tests like these. But the truth is, you probably do.

E-books are an excellent tool to use as an incentive! As we’ve conducted research, we’ve been amazed at how high their value is perceived. They have a low fulfilment requirement via email, and they cost very little to create.

You probably have plenty of content already in your organization: blog posts, articles, webinars, books, recorded speakers from past events, etc. Any content can be turned into an e-book and offered as a way to help grow and bolster your email file.

Wrap Up…

Most people don’t hand out their personal information just because you ask for it. And most people aren’t motivated to give you their email address just because you have a newsletter. An incentive can give someone a tangible reason to give you their contact information. And testing your way to the right incentive will not only help you get a higher conversion rate in your acquisition efforts. It will also help you grow a deeper understanding of the motivation of your target audience.

5. Create a Conversion Focused Form

The email acquisition form is both your best friend and your worst enemy. The amount and nature of information you ask for will determine which one.

How the amount of required information impacts conversion

Experiment #289

This is a test we performed with Hillsdale College. They have a free publication called Imprimis that’s almost 40 years old, and can be delivered in a hard or digital copy.

Below is the name acquisition offer for this publication. Historically, this form required both an email and home address so it could be delivered both ways.

Experiment 289 - ControlHillsdale College thought that the number of required fields in the email acquisition form was contributing friction, and lowering the conversion rates on this page. For the treatment, the number of required form fields were reduced. Specifically, we removed the address information and removed an image of Imprimis issues.

Experiment 289 - Treatment

The treatment produced a 136% increase in the number of email signups received! The conversion rate increased from 32% to 76%.

Truth be told, there is a downside to reducing the amount of information required on a form. When you ask for less information, the volume of names acquired typically increases, but the quality of the names is typically lower. If you have fewer fields, you typically have less friction which means that your traffic doesn’t have to be as highly motivated to convert.

When you ask for more information, the volume of names acquired may drop, but those who do convert will have a higher motivation – making them a higher quality lead.

It’s important to weigh the value of having both the email address and the postal address, and ask which is more important: having high-quality names or high volume?  

By asking for only email addresses right away, you may see a lift in conversion through the form. This means you won’t receive their postal address right away, so you’ll need to find a different avenue to obtain it. It creates multiple ways of engaging and communicating with the person on the other side of the screen.

For example, you could send a follow-up email saying, “You just received the digital copy of this. Do you want me to send it your home? Just fill out your postal address here!

How breaking up the email acquisition form into two parts affects conversion

Experiment #2039

Another strategy is to break the form into steps. This allows you to get more names and emails initially, and then you can customize those names and emails in the second step. It reduces cognitive friction for the user.

Here’s an example. This is a signup page for the Heritage Foundation’s President’s Club Event hosted in Washington D.C.  Experiment 2039 - Control

As you can see, the form is designed as one long page. It requires all the information necessary to register for the event at once. Right away, the visitor is required to provide an enormous amount of information that takes time, energy, and immediate planning.

The visitor has to think through a lot of details to answer the questions on this form.

By requiring all this information up front, we were excluding a potential segment of the audience that planned to come but hadn’t figured out all of the details of attending.

For the treatment, we broke the form into two separate pages. The first page acquired the commitment to attend the event and the relevant contact information. The second page captured the rest of the event details.

Experiment 2039 - TreatmentThe treatment produced a 99.4% increase in signups for the events!

Wrap Up…

The strategies shown in these examples are the easiest places to begin optimizing your email acquisition form. Get rid of fields, change the types of fields required, and break the form into two steps. There are many more ideas that can be tested, such as combining the use required and non-required form fields. As you make changes to your forms, continue to test what works best for your target audience.

6. Place Your Offer in Proper Places

If you have a great offer but nobody can see it or find it then how can they evaluate if they want to sign up or not? Great offers must be found!

It seems that every time you go to a technology website, you get a pop-up ad about the latest and greatest gadget. Pop-ups are all over the internet, and now I almost expect them! Even though they are intrusive and annoying at times, they are extremely powerful in terms of their ability to help you get your offer in front of a captive audience. And from our research, we’ve learned that offer placement can be critical to the success of your acquisition efforts.

Pop-ups, slide-outs, take-overs: we all hate them, but they work!

How an alternate offer, given at the right time, increased emails acquired

Experiment #2292

Our first example was a test performed with Texas State Historical Association. Here is their actual email signup page for a Civil War e-book offer. By comparison, the page had a good conversion rate. But even so, the majority of visitors did not convert.

Offer Placement - Experiment 2292 - Control

What happens if the visitor isn’t interested in the Civil War e-book? They start to exit the page. Instead of letting them go entirely, we created a pivot offer that would appear as soon as the visitor showed intent to exit, also known as an exit pop-up. This is a relevant but different offer that appears when the visitor brings the cursor to the left or right corner.

In this example, the exit pop-up offer was to receive a weekly email called Texas Day by Day. It offers education on the rich history of the state in bite-sizes pieces, conveniently sent to your email address every week.

The control has only one call to action. The treatment has a secondary call to action, but it displays only when someone indicates intent to abandon the offer or page.

Offer Placement - Experiment 2292 - Treatment

The treatment produced a 36.9% lift in the number of new subscribers.

You might hesitate to take advantage of pop-ups because of how annoying they’re perceived to be. But, again, they work! There’s no harm in giving visitors another opportunity. Whether it’s when they first appear on the page or when they get ready to leave – you can redirect them with a completely different offer.

Relevant offers presented at the right time can increase conversion rate.

How a disruptive offer placement increased email acquisition

Experiment #2542

This test was done in partnership with Alliance Defending Freedom. We specifically wanted to test email acquisition on their active blog. It receives between 3,000-5,000 visitors each day, and each post ends with multiple calls-to-action. One call-to-action is to donate. The other call-to-action is to sign up for their email list.

Offer Placement - Experiment 2542 - Control

Data told us the email signup offer was more successful in than the donate option in terms of conversion. We isolated this email offer and created a slide-out ad. Our hypothesis was the offer placement was keeping most blog readers from seeing it.

In our treatment, we also included value proposition language that identified the benefits of giving an email. The button text was also changed to communicate more value. As the visitor scrolled near the bottom of the page, the subtle slide-out appeared from the right.

Offer Placement - Experiment 2542 - Treatment

After conducting an A/B split test, we discovered a 523% increase in the number of new email subscribers by adding this more disruptive technique!

Wrap Up…

Compelling content by itself is not enough. We need to present our captive audience with timely, compelling offers. Yes, pop-ups are annoying. You probably hate them, and we do too. No one goes to a website hoping one will appear. But there’s a reason why we use them: they’re powerful!

Sometimes there needs to be a disruption on the page that will position our offer to the right person at the right time. There are a lot of ways to create more opportunities to grow your email file with this strategy. The goal is to create more traffic to your email signup offers, which will increase the total number of net subscribers onto your file.

7. Collect Emails Offline

One of the easiest ways to grow your of email list, particularly if you’ve been doing a lot of offline work, is to simply start asking for, collecting, and importing emails from offline sources.

If you send direct mail out, add a field that asks for email when people send in their donations. Do you do events? Have an email field when people buy tickets online with an opt-in or on their pledge card when/if they donate. Have sign-in sheets at volunteer training and gatherings. Pretty much anytime you get together, try to collect email addresses (properly) and import them into your database and email provider.

It’s a good idea to send them a welcome email or two when you do just so they are aware you’ll be sending them content and they can unsubscribe at any point.

6 Ways to Grow Your Email File eBook

Get More Resources

You can download the PDF version of this post by filling out the form below:


You can also go deeper with one of our courses or find more related blog posts here. And if you have any questions about this or as you go, feel free to email us at Good luck!

About the author:


Tim Kachuriak

Tim is the Chief Innovation & Optimization Officer for NextAfter. Tim has accomplished a lot over his career between driving online fundraising growth for countless nonprofits, sitting on the board of multiple nonprofits, and being a sought-after international speaker. But his biggest accomplishment may be winning "Best Stage Presence" for the 1991 Pittsburgh Boys Choir.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

We’re celebrating a huge milestone this week…we’ve officially logged 1000 experiments in our online fundraising research library. But the number itself is not what we’re most excited about.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredible to be able to say to someone that we’ve documented 1000 experiments that are decoding what works to inspire more donations and increase generosity.

Ultimately though, it’s the learnings those 1000 experiments represent that get us jumping up and down.

Before I go any further, let’s just all take a moment to celebrate, because you’re an essential part of this too (more on that in a minute).

1000 Experiments Confetti

All right. Now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, let’s look at the experiment that put us over the edge.

The 1000th Experiment

The 1000th online fundraising experiment was conducted with Boys Town – an organization working to change how the world cares for children, families, and communities by helping those suffering from abuse, addiction, abandonment and violence to reach their potential.

In this experiment, Boys Town was running a Facebook advertising campaign to try and acquire new email addresses and grow their file. They were offering a free 5-week email series to help parents learn how to handle toddler tantrums.

The original ad used copy that we would consider organizational-centric. By that, I mean that the copy was focused around organizational goals, rather than the goals of the end user.

Here’s the ad:

Boys Town Control Ad

We created a new Facebook ad to test. This time, the copy was more donor-centric. Rather than say things like “We’ve pulled together…”, the copy used words like “you” and “your.” The value presented was focused on what the recipient would get out of it – not the organization.

Here’s the treatment:

Boys Town Treatment Ad

The goal of this experiment was to drive more traffic to the landing page where someone could sign up for the email series. To validate this experiment, we looked at clicks.

After running the experiment for 2 weeks, we compared the difference. The treatment ad (the one with donor-centric copy) saw a 27.7% increase in clicks to the landing page. The treatment was a clear winner, but what did we learn?

Empathy, Marketing, and Online Fundraising Go Hand-in-Hand

Whenever we run an experiment like this, we’re always looking for the larger principle. Every single experiment that we add to our library helps define and refine a bigger picture of what makes donors give.

This experiment points towards the idea of empathetic marketing. Let’s define empathy really quick:

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. –

When we try to understand and share the feelings of our donors and potential donors, we start to see our copy, our messaging, our advertising, and every other marketing and fundraising channel differently.

In this case, by putting ourselves in the shoes of the people seeing the ad for the free email series, we realized that there wasn’t much value being communicated about why this offer was important and relevant to the end user.

By tweaking our messaging to be more empathetic, we saw a significant improvement in our results.

Empathetic Marketing - Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll of Markempa was the first person to introduce me to the term empathetic marketing, and he gave a talk on it at the 2017 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit.

If you want to dig deeper, you can watch his whole talk for free.

This idea of empathetic marketing applies well beyond advertising. Over the course of 1000 experiments, we’ve seen this concept play out on donation pages, email fundraising, and more.

Lessons We’ve Learned from 1000 Experiments

Empathy is at the heart of nearly every major learning and breakthrough that we’ve found throughout 1000 online fundraising experiments.

Everything from crafting a more effective value proposition, to designing a higher converting donation page, to lifting revenue from your email appeals all points back to this central idea of having empathy for your donors.

I think you’ll see this trend if we look at some of the most significant learnings from these 1000 experiments:

Never Assume that Someone Understands Why They Should Give to You

The most significant factor in influencing some to click, sign-up, register, or donate is always the value proposition. If your donor doesn’t know why their gift matters, they’re not going to donate.

We’ve seen this play out in countless experiments, but let’s look at one that illustrates this very clearly…

In experiment #6623 with Illinois Policy Institute, their original donation page had virtually no copy on it. There was nothing to answer the donor’s fundamental question: Why should I give to you, rather than some other organization, or maybe not at all?

When our donation pages have no copy, we’re essentially assuming that the potential donor is already fully convinced that they should donate. But if your donation page conversion rate is anything less than 100%, this assumption can’t be true.

We tested this original donation page against a new one that clearly explained why a donor should give. The new page saw a 150% increase in donations.

Here’s a quick video breaking down the experiment:

Do you see how empathy comes into play on a donation page? We have to craft our page keeping in mind how the donor is perceiving it.

People Give to People, Not Email Machines

This is the golden rule we live by when it comes to email fundraising.

Just think about your own email habits. When you wake up in the morning and check your email on your phone, which emails do you actually want to open? The vast majority of the time, you’re going to open emails from real human beings that you know and trust.

Now, you might be saying, “Nathan, I live a healthy lifestyle and don’t immediately stare at my phone when I wake up.”

For that, I applaud you.

But the same concept applies when you get to work. Are you more inclined to open the email from your colleague, or the email that looks like it’s from a salesperson wanting you to buy a new tool or service?

People Give to PeopleThere are a ton of factors that go into the psychology of deciding which emails to open and which ones to delete. While we don’t have the time or space in this post to go into detail, Jeff Giddens held a webinar on humanizing your email appeals that’s really helpful in understanding how to break-through in the inbox, get your emails opened and read by motivated donors, and grow your revenue.

You can watch the whole webinar here.

If you don’t have time to watch the webinar, here are some tips to keep in mind next time you write a fundraising email. I’ve linked a blog post about each tip if you want to read more.

  • Build trust with your donors by using a personal sender name. Read more
  • Use personalization to help build a real relationship. Read more
  • Write enough copy to thoroughly explain your value proposition. Read more
  • Only use images if they’re going to strengthen the value of your appeal. Read more
  • Delete all of your fancy email templates. You wouldn’t send it to your friend, so don’t send it to your donor. Read more
  • Talk like a real human being, not a marketing robot. Read more

Are you seeing the trend? Email fundraising is about relationships. And healthy relationships require empathy.

No One Goes Online to Give. They Go Online to Get.

Some people really don’t like hearing this claim. Here’s what a fundraiser had to say when I made this claim in a Facebook ad:

Facebook comment

Obviously, people donate online. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job. So please hear me out before you rake me over the coals like this fundraiser….

The general reason people go online, particularly on Facebook, is to get something for themselves. This includes updates on family and friends, articles, blogs, news (fake and real), games, tools, resources, etc.

People don’t get on Facebook with the purpose of giving away their money.

As a result, using a channel like Facebook to try and convince someone to donate to your organization directly is most often going to be fruitless.

We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the user; we have to have empathy. Since a Facebook user is looking to get something, we can offer them something of value for free in exchange for an email address.

By doing so, we can get the user out of the Facebook timeline and create an opportunity to make a donation ask that won’t fall on deaf ears.

We’ve spent $3 million on Facebook advertising over the past 4 years, and conducted 300+ Facebook fundraising experiments to craft this donor acquisition strategy. And every single step is outlined in a free 11-session course called Turning Facebook Likes Into Donors.

This course so far has helped over 1800 fundraisers learn how to effectively acquire new revenue using Facebook and other similar channels. And none of this would be possible without the power of optimization, testing, and experimentation.

1000 Experiments is Great. But It’s Only a Starting Place.

NIO Summit Shirt“Adequacy is the enemy of excellence.” – Peter Drucker

We live by this quote at NextAfter. So much so that we put it on a t-shirt we gave away at the 2017 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit (You should come to this, by the way).

1000 experiments is a great number, but we can’t stop here. There’s so much more to be learned. And in order to keep pressing forward and discovering what makes donors give, we need other fundraisers to embrace optimization.

The real power of 1000 experiments is not in the number itself. And it’s not just in the learnings. The power is in the people that it represents, day in and day out, who are testing and optimizing to discover what works.

And when nonprofits work hard to discover what works, the revenue growth that follows has the power to provide food to children around the world who are starving. It has the power to provide training and support to families that are trapped in a cycle of poverty. It has the power to provide health services and medication to people in desperate health crises.

Optimization has the power to change the world. And 1000 experiments is only the very beginning.

About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

How 13 Email Acquisition Page Elements Helped One Organization Increase Conversions by 448%

Published by Nathan Hill

Email Acquisition PageOne thing I’ve been learning recently is that many fundraisers don’t understand why email acquisition is so important. This is a little shocking to me since it’s so widely understood in for-profit industries that email file growth is essential to online revenue growth.

Since you’re reading this post, I’m assuming you already have some sense of why email acquisition is so important. But just in case you’re surrounded by nay-sayers that don’t see the value, here are 4 quick stats that illustrate the impact that email file growth can have at a nonprofit:

  1. Offline donors can be up to 90% more valuable when you have their email address.
  2. Retention increases by 29% for offline donors when you have their email address.
  3. Multi-channel donors can be 212% more valuable for your organization than offline-only donors.
  4. Multi-channel donors have a 56% higher retention rate than offline-only donors.

Email Acquisition Pages - Multichannel Value

In short, acquiring more emails leads to revenue growth. If you want to read more on those stats, Brady Josephson breaks each one down a little more in his post on integrated fundraising.

So then, how do you increase email acquisition?

There are a million channels that you can utilize and invest in to try and grow your email file. Facebook advertising is a really good one (we have a free course on that). You can use search advertising like Google Adwords, email list rental, display advertising, native adverting, etc. The list goes on and on.

But regardless of what marketing channels you use to get your message out, you always need two things: a content offer and an email acquisition page.

We’re going to talk in depth about the email acquisition page, but if you need some ideas on what kind of content offers to create to acquire more emails, here are a few that we’ve found can be really effective:

  • Petitions related to your cause.
  • Quizzes that help someone see the scope of your work.
  • eBooks that illustrate a need or your impact (these could be repurposed blog posts).
  • Online Courses that help someone experience the value proposition of your organization.

Once you have an offer created, you need a dedicated email acquisition page where you can describe your offer and give someone the opportunity to sign-up, download, register, etc.

So once you have your offer ready to go, what makes for an effective email acquisition page?

13 proven elements of an effective email acquisition page

After analyzing 80+ email acquisition page experiments, we’ve identified 13 elements that can help you see tremendous growth in conversion rates and increase the size of your email file.

These guidelines aren’t “best practices.” Rather, these are 13 elements that we have discovered using rigorous testing, optimization, and research. There certainly are other ways that these pages could be optimized; we just haven’t discovered them yet.

That being said, let’s dive in to the 13 elements.

1. Use a linear layout.

The content on your page should flow from top to bottom, not left to right. Experiment #2472 is a great illustration of this principle. Adjusting the flow of the page increased conversion by 7.7%. 


Treatment #1

7.74% Increase to Emails Acquired

2. Use a text-only headline; not a banner image.

Don’t bury your headline in an image. For some reason, users tend to skip past headline images and miss the content within. But a text-only headline could give you an increase in emails like in experiment #2684.


Treatment #2

9.16% Increase to Emails Acquired

3. If you use a background image, make sure it matches your advertising.

You don’t always have to use a background image. But if you use one, it needs to match the design of your advertising to give the user a sense of continuity. Experiment #314 isn’t just isolated to the background image, but it illustrates this principle of continuity really well – and it saw a 39% increase in conversion.


Treatment #1

39.25% Increase to Emails Acquired

4. Add social proof.

If you’re not familiar with social proof, it’s essentially anything that creates bandwagon effect and demonstrates how much other people value your offer. The petition offer in experiment #2193 saw an 8.4% increase in conversion by showing the number of people that had already signed.


Treatment #1

8.36% Increase to Emails Acquired

5. Write 2-3 short paragraphs of copy to convey your value proposition.

There are two things to keep in mind here…you want to make sure and thoroughly explain the value of your offer. So you need significant copy on your page. But there is such a thing as too much copy as we saw in experiment #4652.

Make sure your copy doesn’t drag on, but is clarified and direct.


Treatment #1

80.46% Increase to Emails Acquired

6. Use a primary image (not a video) if it adds clarity or increases continuity.

Images aren’t some magic tool to boost conversion. They’re only helpful if they add value and clarity. And please, don’t rely on a video to communicate the value of your offer. It might work as supporting content (more on that in a second), but definitely don’t put a video in-line like in experiment #6678.


Treatment #1

13.18% Decrease to Emails Acquired

7. Avoid supporting content in-line with the main content.

Supporting content is essentially anything other than your main copy. This could be reviews, testimonials, ratings, videos, endorsements, etc. This content can be helpful, but it shouldn’t ever go in-line with your copy. Keep it to the side, preferably near your call-to-action and form.

In experiment #3224 below, we see that adding a testimonial in-line with copy actually hurt conversion. So the right placement of this type of content is essential.


Treatment #1

28.02% Decrease to Emails Acquired

8. Add a call-to-action header and copy.

This one is easy to forget. But after you’ve explained why someone should accept your offer, you need to directly ask them to take action. Do this with a short header, and brief sentence or two. This experiment from National Breast Cancer Foundation is a perfect example of the importance of a call-to-action header.


Treatment #1

100% Increase to Emails Acquired

9. Use as few form fields as possible.

More form fields generally mean more friction and fewer conversions. So don’t ask for more information than you really need. Experiment #5847 is a great example where reducing the fields needed to register for an online course increased conversion by 8.9%.


Treatment #1

8.93% Increase to Emails Acquired

10. Group form fields together to reduce page length.

The principle here is similar to number 9. We want this process to be as easy for the user as possible. Grouping form fields together can make it feel like you’re asking for less information, and in cases like experiment #4376, it can lead to an increase in emails acquired. 


Treatment #1

4.06% Increase to Conversions

11. Consider adding qualifying questions to increase the user’s expectations.

Adding qualifying questions may seem counter-intuitive based on the previous two elements. But there are some instances where asking an additional question can increase the interest of the user and create an expectation that the offer on the other end of the form is of even greater value.

In experiment #2086, we saw that these clarifying questions gave more context for the email newsletter, and created an expectation that the content would be more relevant to them.


Treatment #1

89.32% Increase to Emails Acquired

12. For supporting content, use testimonials or endorsements.

There are tons of different kinds of supporting content, but the two that consistently lift conversion rates are testimonials and endorsements. In experiment #6331, we replaced the online course schedule with testimonials from students and saw a 20% increase in registrations.


Treatment #1

20.52% Increase to Emails Acquired

13. Add a privacy statement below the submit button.

Finally, ensuring that someone’s information will remain private and secure is a great way to relieve anxiety in the mind of the user. And it’s one of the simplest elements to implement.

Experiment #4354 helped us discover this principle. The original page had a privacy statement, and we wondered if it was actually introducing anxiety, rather than helping. When we removed the statement, it decreased conversion by 33%. We quickly learned that these privacy statements reassure skeptical users that their information will indeed be kept secure.


Treatment #1

33.33% Decrease to Emails Acquired

All these elements together led to a 448% increase in emails

All 13 of these email acquisition page elements have the power to increase conversion on their own. But they’re even more powerful when used all together.

Harvest Ministries wondered if applying these principles to their free online course registration page could lead to an increase in conversions. They had many of these elements in place already, but for experiment #8531 they made 3 key changes based on the principles above:

  • Removed the header-image and used a text-only headline.
  • Added a relevant supporting image in-line with their copy.
  • Added testimonials as supporting content (Although it may have been better if it was not in-line).


Treatment #1

448.65% Increase to Emails Acquired

By combining these elements together, Harvest saw a 448% increase in online course registrations.

Applying these elements to your own email acquisition page

You’re probably in one of two camps…either you have never intentionally focused on email acquisition and are starting completely from scratch, or you have an existing page (or pages) that you’re looking to optimize.


No matter which camp you’re in, you’ll want to download the free PDF guide to the 13 elements of an effective email acquisition page. You can print it off, keep it at your desk, and use it every time you create a new page.

If you’re starting from scratch:

If you don’t have any email acquisition pages yet, my go-to tool for creating landing pages quickly and easily is Unbounce. They make it really easy to create pretty designs, test different variations of your page, and integrate into your email marketing tools.

Create a brand-new email acquisition page following these 13 elements as guidelines. Then consider testing a second variation where you focus your copy on a different aspect of your offer’s value proposition.

If you already have an email acquisition page:

Don’t go blindly make all these changes. If you have the capability, you should create a new version of your email acquisition page based on these guides and put it to the test. This will help you know exactly how much of a difference your changes are making. And if you get a big increase, it will help you report your success to your boss.

If you’ve never launched a test before, you can go sign up for a free Google Optimize account and set up a simple redirect test. Send half your traffic to your original page, and send the other half to your new page.

Keeping track of what you’ve learned

And after you let your experiment run for a few weeks, you can log your experiment in your own free research library at We initially built this tool for our own testing, and now it’s helping lots or organizations keep track of what they’re learning from testing and optimization.

If you put these elements to the test and find different results, I’d love to know about them. We’re always learning and want to be challenged by new research. You might discover something new that we haven’t seen yet. That’s what makes testing and optimization so much more powerful than following “best practices” – there’s always more to learn and more ways to improve.

About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

5 Times that Exit-Intent Offers Dramatically Increased Email Acquisition

Published by Nathan Hill

Lots of marketers and fundraisers are deathly afraid of pop-ups like exit-intent offers. I myself used to be afraid of them. And if I’m really being honest, even though internet pop-up ads have come a long, long way in terms of quality and effectiveness, most that I see are either irrelevant or try to guilt me to sign up for their email list.

Take this pop-up ad on for example…

Exit-Intent Ad Example

They give you two options: you can give them your email to get $10 off, or you can say “I prefer to pay full price.” They essentially make you say “Hey, I’m a complete idiot” if you want to close out of the ad. And this is one of the nice ones.

Luckily this one has an “X” to close it, but many guilt-trip ads like this will force you to click their button of shame.

It’s bad marketing like this that has created a fear (and a hatred in many cases) around using slide-outs, pop-ups, and exit-intent offers.

But today I’m hoping to help set you free from this fear – as long as you use them to provide helpful and relevant content, they can be one of the most powerful tools on your site to acquire new email addresses.

5 Exit-Intents that Acquired Tons of Emails and Didn’t Make People Mad

To Use Exit Intent Offers, or Not…That is the Experiment

In this experiment, ADF wanted to see if they could use a tool like an exit-intent offer on their News and Press Release pages to capture emails of people that had completed reading an article or browsing the headlines. On the original pages, you had to scroll to the footer to find an opportunity to sign up for an email list if you were so inclined.

They tested adding an exit-intent pop-up that asked the visitor if they wanted to “Stay informed of changes to your religious freedom.” Since this site provided news related to that topic, it was a relevant offer placed at time when the reader could very well be interested in knowing when there is more, relevant news.


Treatment #1

297.69% Increase to Emails Acquired

By using a relevant offer, they saw a 297% increase in emails acquired.

Should it Slide-Out? Or Should it Pop-Up?

This same organization had a slide-out offer running on their blog post pages. When the reader scrolled a certain amount down the page, this ad would slide-out and interrupt the reader with an offer.

While this tactic saw some success, it interrupted the eye-path and flow of the reader. They wondered if an exit-intent ad, placed when someone was finished reading and ready to leave, would get a higher conversion rate.

The exit-intent didn’t interrupt the flow of the content, but rather only displayed when someone showed signs of exiting. By implementing the exit-intent, they saw a 228% increase in emails acquired. You can see all the details here.

Ok, But What About Mobile Devices?

That’s a great question. It’s nearly impossible to tell when someone is about to exit on a mobile device. So Illinois Policy Institute developed a different type of pop-up offer specifically for people reading on their phones.

The original offer was a small lower-third overlay that offered a free eBook. But this type of overlay didn’t really force the user to make a decision – you could keep scrolling while it clung to the bottom of the screen.

So they tested a new style of offer that looked much more like an exit-intent (although, technically, it was still a slide-out). The new offer placed more of an overlay on the screen so that the reader had to decide whether or not to accept the offer.


Treatment #1

49.94% Increase to Emails Acquired

By making the offer more prominent, they saw a 91.6% increase in emails acquired. There are still ways to make these kinds of offers work on a phone. You just need to get creative in how they’re displayed.

I already have an offer on my page. Do I really need an exit-intent?

Harvest Ministries had an email capture offer placed in a fairly prominent position on their homepage. The original hope was that readers would naturally find the offer to sign up for a devotional, fill out the form, and be on their way.

But they wondered if an exit-intent offer could actually lift their conversion rates by placing an opportunity to get more content from Harvest right as they were about to exit.


Treatment #1

93.96% Increase to Emails Acquired

When they ran the experiment, Harvest saw a 94% increase in emails acquired by using the exit-intent offer over just the in-line offer.

Acquisition pages are different though, right?

In this last experiment, the Texas State Historical Association used an exit-intent offer in a slightly different way. The experiments above all show exit-intents showing a generic offer across home pages and article pages. But THSA thought they could increase conversion rates on a high-traffic email acquisition page by using an exit-intent to show a secondary offer.

The original acquisition page was offering a free eBook. Someone who visited the page either got the eBook, or they bounced. But the treatment used an exit-intent offer, hypothesizing that someone who would abandon the eBook page might still be interested in getting a Texas history update each week.


Treatment #1

36.89% Increase to Emails Acquired

After running the experiment, they saw a 37% increase in emails acquired. Interestingly enough, the exit-intent drove a significant increase in conversion from the original offer – meaning that the exit-intent captured their attention and actually drove them back to reconsider getting the eBook.

How have you used exit-intents and other acquisition tools?

There are a lot more ways you can use exit-intent offers. In fact, we use one on all of our webinar registration pages to offer a free recording if you can’t attend. These kinds of offers give the visitor something relevant and helpful, without being a nuisance and causing additional frustration.

Have you used exit-intent offers on your site? If so, have you tested it against other types? I’d love to hear more, and even help you log it in our research library so you can share your learnings with others.

About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

How Focus on the Family Acquired 200,000 New Emails with a Free Online Assessment

Published by Nathan Hill

Focus on the Family is a Christian ministry that focuses on equipping families with the tools they need to thrive. This includes educating couples on how to have a strong and healthy marriage, providing tools for parents to help raise their children, providing counseling when people face crises or tragedy, and much more.

Focus on the Family LogoThe Problem

Being a content-driven organization, it’s crucial for Focus on the Family to be reaching new audiences, acquiring new emails, and cultivating them into donors. Many organizations have great content and are doing impactful work, but just doing good work does not guarantee that the right people are going to hear about you, value you, and donate to your cause.

In fact, someone could frequently visit an organization’s website for years, but that doesn’t guarantee they will join an email file or donate. Focus on the Family recognized this, and wanted to develop an offer that would appeal to likely subscribers, capture their email, and plug them into a donation funnel.

The Plan

Marriage AssessmentSince marriage is a major content topic for Focus on the Family, they decided to create a free online assessment that would help someone discover how healthy their marriage is. As experts in this field, they had identified 12 key marriage success traits that could be measured using simple questions.

This assessment makes a series of statements and asks the user to rank them on a scale from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.” At the end, the user is prompted for their email address in order to view their results. After submitting the form, the user can see a chart of all 12 key traits explaining the areas in which their marriage is strong, and the areas they have room to improve.

You can take the assessment for yourself here.

Just having an offer doesn’t guarantee results. Focus on the Family launched a series of Facebook ads, tapping into their social media community to provide their new assessment to people likely to take it.

After someone completed the assessment, they were entered into a post-assessment email nurture series. This series points the assessment takers to additional content and resources they can use to improve and strengthen their marriage. This additional content was a mixture of free blogs and articles, as well as books that could be purchased through their eCommerce store.

Email Series ExampleThe Results

This free offer netted significant results in several key areas. First, they saw a 10% increase in daily traffic to their site simply through organic social media posts. When they followed this up with paid social media advertising, they were able to lift their daily website traffic by an additional 26%.

This led to a combined 38% overall lift in website traffic. But the primary metric they were looking to lift was new emails.

This additional traffic resulted in over 260,000 completed assessments. And 200,000 of those were brand new email subscribers. The potential of these subscribers to become donors is far greater than someone simply signing up for a newsletter. They’ve experienced the value proposition of Focus on the Family directly, so that when a donation appeal comes, they will have a much more tangible idea of what they’re supporting.

The Learning

One of the biggest takeaways that we can draw from this campaign is the idea that not all content offers are created equal.

Focus on the Family - Best Recurring CampaignEven as we evaluated the applications for the 2017 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization awards, we saw many organizations that were utilizing Facebook advertising to give a free offer in exchange for an email address. But in many cases, organizations use offers for acquisition that aren’t related to the work the organization does.

For instance, Focus on the Family could have given away a chance to win a free cruise in exchange for an email address. It may have gotten a lot of submissions, but that doesn’t help someone understand their organization better. By creating an offer that is relevant to your work and helps someone experience your organization first hand, you can increase the likelihood that a new email subscriber will be engaged with you and become a donor.

Because of their ability to create an offer that tied so well into the work of their organization, and its effectiveness in acquiring their target audience, we’ve awarded Focus on the Family a 2017 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization award.

About the author:


Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.