Last year, Peggy Sweeney, founder of The Sweeney Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping people deal with grief, decided that she wanted to better spread the word about the nonprofit’s workshops and programs.

For most of 2011, she had been sending print newsletters entitled “Journeys Through Grief” and maintaining a blog. Beyond that, she hadn’t considered any other kinds of outreach until a colleague recommended that she try Constant Contact.

Peggy’s online marketing efforts snowballed from there – today, she has over 750 contacts on her email list and just under 400 Facebook fans.

I recently talked with her to learn about her experience getting started with email marketing and social media:

Tell us a little bit about your newsletters.

I have a background as a bereavement educator. I wanted to get information out to the public in general, so I started a newsletter about a year ago. I found Constant Contact, because the man who was hosting my website at the time recommended you guys.

I thought, well, okay, I’ll give it a shot. I’m a nonprofit and all of that, so I got a really good deal.

When I first got into the email editor, it was a bit daunting. But then I slowly started working on the newsletter. There were so many templates to choose from, and it’s all been a progression.

I didn’t do a lot of it until this past December when I retired. But as soon as I did, I realized that print newsletters just weren’t as cost-effective as email ones.

Constant Contact is also just very helpful, because I can always get a quick answer from somebody in support or just watch a webinar.

How has your email marketing strategy grown since you started?

I segmented my list so I could expand my first newsletter to four different ones that all go out to different audiences. I schedule them for different times of the month, so I’m not overwhelmed.

I like to set up the template so there are some standard things, then I can just copy and put in different content.

After just a little while, people started to share their stories after I send out newsletters. For example, I just sent out my newsletter today and I got an email from a secretary to a police chaplain who told me, ‘This is terrific.’

I also started looking deeper into Constant Contact’s other tools.  I didn’t even look at what Autoresponder was all about until April. It just really pulled me in after that.

I set up four different emails to tell new subscribers about different things. The first message is basically a welcome, then the second one is about the four distinct newsletters giving a synopsis. The third one is about a free, online grief course. The fourth one comes after 65 days and it’s a very simple survey about the newsletters’ content.

Peggy uses AutoResponder to welcome new subscribers, inform them about newsletter content & her different newsletters, then asks them what they would like to see in future emails.

I’ve also improved more on how to work with actual email templates. I like the changes that you made over the last couple months and the ease in using them. I also started going into areas I’m not sure of — like the Autoresponder — and that’s where I found the survey and polls tool.

You use Online Survey, too?

Yes, and I really like that. I sent a survey out a couple of months ago and I probably got about 30-some responses. It was asking how people found us, if they were interested in sharing their stories for the newsletter, and what they’re interested in learning about.

I think the survey is a really unique tool. A year ago, I wouldn’t have known how to find it. Now, I look at it as a valuable way to find out what people want.

So you’ve come a long way since signing up for email in June.

Right, and that’s what I wanted. Today, I have over 750 subscribers and that’s in less than a year.

I’m really happy with that progress because I just want to make sure that everyone knows about the programs I offer. And that makes me feel good because I know people are going to get help.

Want to see if Constant Contact can help grow your organization? Give us a test drive and sign up for a free 60-day trial.