E-newsletters (or email newsletters) are quickly becoming standardized tools for non-profit organizations. Your online newsletter helps build awareness about your cause, bonds your subscribers to your organization and cause, and keeps the important issues in the forefront of your subscribers’ minds. While putting together e-newsletters is not easy for smaller non-profits, it is certainly not impossible. If you haven’t yet considered one, think about penning an e-newsletter of your own. (Click here to see more reasons why they are important.)
Here are a few tips to get you going on your own e-newsletter:
1. Discuss, don’t Ask.
Talk about your organization, the issues that are your organization’s focus, the people you help, and the methods you use to help them. Don’t focus too much on donations (its not called a fundraising newsletter, for a reason); you’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask for donations throughout the year (click here to learn about fundraising emails). The newsletter is your opportunity to keep your supporters informed about your mission and give them updates about the important work you are doing. Keep your non-profit newsletter focused on the work you are doing and the impact your organization is having. This is not to say that you should not provide your readers an opportunity to contribute, but seeking donations should not be the focus of your newsletter. A good rule of thumb about your content is 90% educational, and 10% promotional.
2. Match copy and images.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” We’re all familiar with this expression, but seem to easily forget it in our own work. Images are powerful tools for personalizing an issue or story, so carefully select the images to match and highlight your content. A good practice for choosing images is to choose your storyline, then select an image that conveys the emotion of that story, then write your story around that image. Make your artwork the centerpiece of your e-newsletter.
3. Make your Subject Line Pop.
There’s an old saying in journalism, “If it bleeds, it leads.” While you don’t always have to be negative or sensationalistic, you do want to draw people in with your subject line. Get your readers’ attention, and let them know what the topic of the newsletter will be. While some online marketing individuals try to familiarize their readers with their e-newsletter by sending it out with the exact same subject line, this is, generally, a losing technique. Most readers eventually find this boring, and start ignoring your newsletter altogether. Be creative in choosing a subject line and differentiate your organization from other groups.
4. Keep your design simple.
A newsletter, by its nature, contains more than one story. Three or four stories is quite typical, but, if not presented properly, can overwhelm the reader. The best way to avoid overwhelming your reader is to keep the e-newsletter clean and simple. Make your copy concise, clearly differentiating between each story. In your email, it’s also a good practice to provide short teasers for each story that allow them to click on the story lead which takes them to a landing page that contains the full story, presented in a more dynamic fashion. Concise copy gives your subscribers a taste of your content — just enough that they want to click and learn more. White space is also important because it keeps your email clean and uncluttered, especially on mobile platforms. Here’s a quick refresher on the psychology of design to keep in mind while designing your email.
5. Test, test, and test some more.
Test every aspect of your e-newsletter: design, copy, subject lines, and images. Find out what is most effective, leading to the most opens, clicks, or donations. At LDMI, we have a simple but effective program that we use for all newsletters. We start with the story, move onto to the e-newsletter design, and finalize things with donations. Test length, pictures, design, format, the whole gamut to create a powerful and engaging newsletter your readers will look forward to. Once the fundamentals are set, you can move on to metered sends, donations, etc.
And one final tip for good measure: make your e-newsletter easy for people to “optout”. As mentioned above, e-newsletters are primarily designed to bond your organization with your supporters, not to solicit donations. If a newsletter doesn’t do that with one particular subscriber, then don’t sweat. Let the subscriber unsubscribe as quickly as possible. If you don’t, the newsletter will have the exact opposite effect bonding, first it will annoy the subscriber, then distance him or her from your organization. Remember, you already have them on your house file, do everything you can to keep them there.
So there you have it. I recommend starting your e-newsletter as soon as possible. Get everything in order, including a strong review process, and see what impact an e-newsletter could have for your organization. Don’t rush into it, but work methodically and consistently to get your e-newsletter program up and running. Creating an e-newsletter doesn’t cost much, but it can be an effective tool in building the reputation of your non-profit and growing people’s awareness about your organization and its mission.
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