How to Get Subscribers For Your Newsletter

Brian Sun

For five days (from January 5-9) Staffhacker contributor Brian Sun is going to tell you why he uses Mailchimp (and why you should too), show you how to write your first email, and give you tips on how to write effective newsletters and get more subscribers.

When most campus ministers start fundraising, we send a really long mass Facebook message to all of our friends asking them if they want to donate and/or join our newsletter list. Then, 99% of the people on the list ignore us, knowing we’re not going to follow up. You, the wonderful Staffhacker reader, will not be like that. The system I’m about to share with you doubled the number of people reading my email newsletter. So, get ready.

Getting subscribers who want to hear from you can be summed in two concepts: permission and personalization.

Permission grows commitment

Right now, I have 184 people on my email newsletter list. All of them in one way or another said, “Brian, yes, I’d like to receive monthly updates about your ministry.” This permission does wonders for my peace of mind. For example, when I send newsletters asking people to give year-end gifts I feel zero guilt. I don’t feel like I’m bothering them or being pushy–because I know that these are the people who care for me, want to hear from me, and are expecting me to send them stuff on a regular basis.

Plus, when people agree to something, even if it’s by signing a piece of paper or entering their email in an online form, giving their permission grows their commitment. And on your newsletter list, you want people who are committed to you and your ministry.

The concept of permission is so important that I made this list to help illustrate why getting people’s permission is better than just sending them stuff out of the blue.


  • Guilt: Always asking yourself, “Do they want to hear from me?”
  • Anger: Maybe this is just me (haha), but I get mad when people email me stuff I didn’t ask for.
  • Unexpected: People ask, “where did this email come from? I never signed up for this.”

Why PERMISSION is good

  • Peace: You know they want to hear from you.
  • Commitment: Saying “Yes, I’d like to receive updates” grows people’s commitment to your ministry.
  • Expected: “Oh, I was expecting that monthly update, thanks.”

So, the lesson here is not to assume every person in your address book wants to receive email newsletter updates about your ministry but to get their permission first. Remember, permission, permission, permission. And the best way to get people’s permission in the first place is personalization.

Personalization makes you stand out

Everyday in my Facebook inbox, I get invitations for events I don’t want to go to from people just sending a mass message. This does not work. Personalization does.

The way I doubled the size of my email newsletter list was by sending 195 personalized Facebook video messages asking “do you want to receive monthly updates about my ministry?” Then, I followed up with everyone I didn’t hear back from. After that, I followed again with everyone who didn’t respond to my follow up message.

The funniest replies I got from people mainly consisted of “Oh, hey Brian. I thought that was spam so I didn’t open it. That video was really for me?!” And then with tender love in my voice, I would reply, “Yes. Yes, it was.”

Here’s how you can replicate what I did step-by-step:

Creating personalized video invitations

Step 1: Choose your recipients

First, open up Facebook and search through all of your friends asking three questions. Are they a Christian? Do they like me? Do they like [insert ministry name]? If the answer is yes to two of those questions, then add them to your list (made in Word, Excel, wherever) of the people you’re going to send video messages to. This is the list that you will update after each step.

Step 2: Create and send each video

If you have a webcam, just create the video right in a Facebook message to your friend. At the bottom of the “New Message” field, click the video camera next to the word “Attach”. Follow the prompts and record your video right there.

If you don’t have a webcam, you can use a video camera, a cell phone camera, or a point-and-shoot digital camera and then load the video onto your computer. Convert it to a format Facebook can use and upload the video to Facebook and share it, email it to the friend, or upload it to another video-sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo and share the link with them.

Your video should only be around 30 seconds long. Use this template: “Hey George, it’s Tom. Right now, I’m in the process of building my newsletter list for my ministry with Navigators. I was wondering if you’d like to receive monthly-ish updates about my ministry on campus? Just send me back your email address and I can add you. By the way, I like crackers too (in reference to his recent Facebook status).”

Do not, I repeat do not start your message with “I was just sending this message to see how you’re doing.” That is not true; you are sending the message to ask them if they want to receive email updates from you. There’s nothing wrong with that and you’ll probably get into a conversation about how they’re doing another time.

Step 3: Add the responders to your email list

When people message you back with their permission and email address, just add them to your already-started list in Mailchimp. Also, cross them off from the list you made so you don’t follow up with them again.

Step 4: Follow up

Now you need to follow up. This is quite possibly the most important step. Why? Because some people will think your message was spam, most people won’t watch your message until they’re reminded, and following up will make you stand out from everyone else who didn’t follow up. Send a one-sentence message seven days later asking, “Did you get a chance to watch the video I made for you?” For me, this is where most people joined my email updates list.

Again, for anyone who messages you back their permission and email address, just add them to your list in Mailchimp. Then, cross them off the list you made so you don’t follow up with them again.

Step 4 1/2: Final follow-up

Follow up one last time seven days after you sent your first follow up message. This is like a “Make sure everything is okay” message with a hint of “Reminder to respond.” Try writing this: “Part of my job is to share my ministry with people. Sometimes, this puts people in an awkward position because they don’t like to get one more thing in their inbox or they’re just committed to staying updated about other ministries. I just wanted to apologize if my message bothered you. Grace and peace, George.”

Again, add anyone who messages you back with their permission and email address to your list in Mailchimp. Then, cross them off the list you made to keep track of all of your following up.

Step 5: Celebrate

By asking people’s permission and focusing on personalization, after spending 10-20 hours implementing this system your email update lists will grow like crazy because you’ve chosen to engage with the people interested in your ministry. Happy fundraising.

By Brian Sun | Posted: Jan 06, 2011
Category: Email/Communications | Tags: | Permalink | Post a comment | Trackback URL.


  1. January 6, 2011, 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Great use of facebook to connect with ministry supporters! I’ve never thought of using the video feature.


  2. greg
    January 6, 2011, 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Man, this is a really clever way to get out some personal invites to my newsletter in an easy way! Thanks, I’m definitely using this after SC

  3. January 9, 2011, 2:46 am | Permalink

    Love, love, love this idea. Gonna use it when FD kicks back in next week! Thanks.

  4. June 29, 2012, 5:06 am | Permalink

    This is such a good use of FB to connect with supporters! I’m not much of a video person, but I might be willing to give this a try. It’s very unique!


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