A Short List of Ways you can Expand your Database

For community groups it is a constant battle to expand your support base. No group can continue to live on the original support because natural attrition will eventually deplete your numbers.

People move on, they get new interests, move out of the area and unless groups are actively seeking new supporters their ability to continue their good work will slowly diminish.

Groups have to continue to expand their supporter base and most will choose to do it through an ongoing data capture exercise rather than purchasing access to a readymade list or database. 

(Those groups wanting more information on buying access to lists, refer to the Buying Lists category in the Mailing and Database Management section of the Media & Marketing Centre).

Data capture is really an impressive sounding way of saying "getting names and information on prospective supporters or contacts for your group".

Some methods of data capture:

  • Hold a raffle and ensure that those who purchase tickets fill in their contact details on the stubs of the returned tickets, or stage a competition where contact details of entrants are needed.
(Remember to provide an opt-out box for people who prefer not to hear from your group).

Raffles are among the most popular and effective ways to, not only fundraise and build awareness of your group or cause, but to also expand the size of your contact list. Please check with the appropriate authorities in your state and territory to see if you need a Lotteries Permit Number. Requirements differ from state to state.
  • Stage a give-away which people have to sign up and provide their details to receive. Again provide people with the opportunity NOT to receive information about your group.
  • Organise a 'sign-up-a friend' drive among existing members and contacts.
Sometimes known as "member-get-member" promotions, these can be a great way to quickly expand your contact list as well as getting current members, donors, volunteers, etc involved.

Consider having an incentive program or special offer that rewards both the existing contact and the new contact.
  • Ask people who enter your organisation's office or base if they want to be put on your mailing list.
Known as "point-of-sale" marketing, especially in retailing circles, this technique can be as simple as having a sign-up form at the front counter or having people at your office ask visitors about signing up to receive your group's newsletter.
  • Ask people who contact you by phone or email if they want to go on your mailing list.
Similar to the strategy above, a "direct ask" might well be worth a try. These people have already contacted you, they know you exist and presumably what you do – why not take the plunge and ask them to get on board?
  • Set up a stand or stall at a local event where people can sign up for a newsletter or further information from your group.
'Taking your group to the people' is a good way to raise awareness of what you do and what you can offer those who wish to support, donate to or join your group. 

Make sure your stall stands out.  Have copies of your newsletter or publication on hand and enough forms for people to fill out if they want to receive newsletters or information from your group.
  • Make offers through your newsletter.
Your newsletter can contain a section inviting readers who are not current members, donors or contacts to sign up – maybe the wording can be along the lines of "Why not join us and become a member? Sign up!"

Possibly include a coupon or registration form for people to fill in and return.
  • Distribute a questionnaire.
A questionnaire is a very popular method of data capture. It can be used to both gather details of potential new contacts, or increase detail on existing contacts.

Keep your questionnaires short and to the point, and don't ask for information you will not need. Before sending your questionnaire out, test it out on colleagues and see what they think.
  • Record details of everyone who RSVPs to attend a conference, seminar, function or other event your group stages.
If your group is putting on an event which involves sending out invitations and gathering RSVPs, record the information and use it to expand the number of new contacts on your direct mail out list.
  • Add a button to your website - Receive our Newsletter!
This allows you to capture the details of people who come to your site and like what they see.  Maybe they don't have the time or inclination to call or sign up or donate straight away, but offering a free newsletter or bulletin allows you to convince them of your good work and then convert them to member, donor, sponsor etc.