How to Build a Political Email List

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

political email list

Do Not Buy a Political Email List – Learn to Build One

There are ads all over the internet to buy a political email. As easy as it sounds, do not do it – do not buy a political email list. They are waste of money, can hurt your online reputation and upset constituents. Instead, build a list organically. Building a political email list is a daunting task, but with a few tactics, planning and patience, you can increase your supporter base. 

What is a political email list?: We define a political email list as an email list of folks to engage, connect and persuade in a district or area you are running in. This list is for persuasion more than fundraising, but you may also be able to convert these folks to donors.  

Opt-in vs Non-opt-in vs cold opt-in emails: Opt-in emails are when someone has opted into joining your email list. This means you agree to be part of a list and that entity uses the list. This is the gold standard of lists. Non-opt-in emails are when an individual has not opted in to subscribing. This occurs when list are created through a match and folks that have not opted in themselves. A cold opt in list is when someone has opted in, but not to your organization. This is when your list came from another organization or group where they have opted in, but not from your entity.  

Political email vs Political Fundraising email: In this post, we are talking about email to be used for persuasion. If you want our take on email lists for fundraising, go here 

Don’t spam: Emailing a cold non-opt in list is bad news. Even though some political emails are exempt from spam laws, not all are (check with your attorney). Spamming folks who have not opted-in to an email list has real consequences. You will risk getting marked as spam for any email you send. Do not buy a non-opt-in political email list. If you spent any money on this, I would suggest you ask for your money back. 

Friends and family: If you’re new to running for office, your email list will start with your friends, family, and contacts you’ve kept through the years. This may be a relatively small list to start, but throughout the course of your campaign, you’ll continue to grow your list.

Clear Sign up form: You should make sure your website includes an easy and clear form for people to sign up for your email list.  Your sign-up CTA should be front and center on the homepage (along with a donate button) and on subsequent pages. Social media accounts should also encourage people to sign up for your list. When you are hosting events, be sure to include a sign-up sheet so people can join your list. This offline action can help convert people to online supporters and donors.

Exit pop ups: People hate pop ups for good reason, but in moderation, they work well. We use a tool called OptinMonster on many sites which has an easy exit pop up tool that can help you get extra opt-ins to your list without much effort or friction with your website visitors.  

Use Petitions: Petition campaigns are a great way to grow your list. You can send out a petition to your email list and ask them to sign it, then pass it along to their family and friends. In addition, you can ask other like-minded organizations or candidates to share your petition with their list. You can also use Facebook ads or a publisher like Care2 to collect email addresses.  This is different than buying a list because people are opting into your list. 

Use social groups: Facebook, Google, and other social groups are a potential places to engage other likeminded folks and drive sign ups. Please make sure you follow the rules of the groups. 

Podcast: Being a guest on podcasts can help drive connection and engagement. Links on connected websites can also help with your authority and engagement. 

Guest Blog: Blogging on other sites can create good backlinks to your site. It can also create real engagement from folks who see your content in high profile publications and then click on links that lead to your site. 

Ask for emails at the door:  Field strategies can yield lots of results– email is one of them. Door knocking and petition signatures at in-person events can find you engaged constituents as well as potential volunteers and donors. Collect emails everyway you can. 

Zoom calls: Zoom gloom is real. You may be bored of Zoom calls, but it is a good way to build an opt-in email list by getting a group of folks on a call. Invite friends of friends, create a host committee, and build a new list by doing virtual community events and coffees. 

List swaps: Be mindful when sharing lists, and always… always use best practices. That said, partnering with others who have a larger list could help grow your list. It can benefit their list as well, so it’s a win-win.

Free swag:  Campaigns have had great success with bumper sticker and magnet campaigns. Offering free swag seems to really draw people in, and this has consistently worked to grow email lists in an organic way. You’re probably making those magnets and bumper stickers anyway, right? Use them to your advantage!

Segment your emails: Folks will sign up for your list for different reasons; policy, personality, connection to you, or opposition to your opponent. Understand why folks are signing up and communicate with them about that. 

Test your emails: The best part about email is that you can test different ideas, so try a few different tactics and see which brings in the most new names. Remember, building your list is only one piece of the puzzle. Once you bring new supporters in, it’s important to cultivate that relationship and ensure they remain your supporters for the long haul.

Be consistent: Make sure you are communicating to your list on a regular and steady, basis. Many folks make the mistake of not communicating to their list for a while and then suddenly over-communicating with them. Consistency is better. 

Understand your metrics: Your metrics can tell you a lot:  Who is opening they emails, when they are opening them, and even why they are opening. With all this information, you can hone in on your content, make clearer asks, and maintain your list by knowing how to deliver for your audience. 

Reengagement campaigns: If you see folks stopping or slowing engagement, try a reengagement campaign, or, a series of emails to get folks back into your emails. 

Get rid of dead wood: If folks don’t engage with your emails and don’t respond to a reengagement campaign, take them off your list – but try to understand why. How did they come in? Did many of the same folks disengage. Learn from this. 

Give value: People will engage with your list if they think the are getting something from it. A policy, a story, or political info can all be helpful to engage for the long term. If all the asks are fundraising asks, you will likely burn through your list. 

Bottom line: Do not buy a list. Take the time to build an organic list from scratch and you will yield benefits. List purchases, especially for persuasion, fall flat or get your site listed as spam. Yes, it will take a lot of time to build an organic list but stick with it and it will work out for you in the long run. 

Have questions about building a political email list? Drop us a note