Extra, Extra Read All About It! The Nonprofit e-Newsletter
The nonprofit newsletter has been around for decades. Unfortunately, the successful offline newsletter can be hard to find … but the option of e-newsletters has changed everything. There are so many opportunities available because of e-newsletters, and some organizations are just scratching the surface.
If you are not doing an e-newsletter, you are missing out on significant opportunities to grow your digital list and get some great insight into what is most relevant and of interest to your constituents. If you are doing an e-newsletter, check the below list to make sure you are maximizing the opportunity.
It’s about them, not you
Make sure you don’t end up with a newsletter that is all about the organization. In the old days, we used to call these “house organs” because in many ways they existed to talk about all the things the volunteers had been doing and were, in fact, written by the volunteers.
In today’s world, it is about getting the information that is most helpful to the reader. While typically there is information about the organization, it is focused on how the organization is making progress against the mission and how this is beneficial to the reader and general public. This is one of the most critical points in making sure your e-newsletter is effective. If it is not of interest or relevant, it will not be read.
Create 4-5 topic modules
E-newsletters can be too long. If you have articles that go on and on and on, trust me, you will not keep people reading. Also, there should not be only one topic. Every organization has multiple ways people engage to support the organization so make sure you highlight this.
A good rule of thumb is to have four to five topic modules that stay the same from one newsletter to another. Your constituents want to know about the impact being made toward the mission. Make sure you use progress statements, not just facts and figures. You should always have some personal aspect to your newsletter — in other words, highlight the “face” of your organization through storytelling. If you are an organization with events, make sure you highlight upcoming opportunities to volunteer or get involved. And, of course, always make sure there is a “case for giving” component to your newsletter, and do not be afraid to point out that you are always in need of support. This type of approach creates a well-rounded reading experience.
12 is better than 4
Since the majority of these touches are considered informative to the reader, don’t be shy — send a monthly newsletter. Creating an annual plan for topics in advance helps balance the workload. Obviously, you want to monitor the metrics of open rates, clickthroughs and even unsubscribes to make sure this is the right cadence for your communication.
Watch the clicks
Everyone watches the normal clicks for an e-campaign (mentioned above) — but you should watch the topic clicks too. Yes, this is more advanced tracking, but if you have constituents who are regularly clicking on specific topics, this is them telling you they have specific interests. The benefit is you can start serving up dynamic content or, at minimum, start some segmentation around content. People make choices — they favor one topic over another. Your job is to “listen to them” to find the people who tend to lean toward community events and activities versus progress statements and charity impact. An e-newsletter can provide direct insight without ever asking the constituent any questions. Don’t miss this important information about preferences and interests.
Sharing with friends
Something simple — make sure you create an opportunity for the reader to share the newsletter. Therefore, you get to talk to more people. Make sure readers can share it through a widget on the actual newsletter and also on the social channels with their broader networks.
As mentioned above, the fastest way to sink a newsletter is to get behind on content. Treat this like any other communication plan (i.e., direct mail, telemarketing, etc.) and map out the full year with your strategy and content, and have a full production schedule for copywriting, reviews, etc. If you treat this like an “add on” project, it will fail.
The 'read more' trap
There are many different opinions on short versus long articles. There are also many opinions on full articles in the newsletter versus teaser copy with a clickable “read more” option. Here’s my opinion: If you have several topics to discuss (which I highly recommend so you can start mining interests), then you don’t want to create a long reading experience because people don’t actually want that. Also, you don’t want them to start with the upper left article and click “read more” and be taken to the website completely away from the newsletter. Why? Because they’ll probably never come back to the newsletter and see what else is there. I’m a big fan of the e-newsletter that has short articles with true calls to action that all lead back to building engagement between your brand and the reader.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.