Email Newsletters: A Tool for Non-Profits

Nonprofits are pulled in many directions when it comes to content — websites, blogs, social media, publications, and annual reports. Those in charge of marketing face the challenge of fundraising, demonstrating program impact, and championing thought leadership efforts through a variety of different channels with diverse target audiences. Fortunately, newsletters are a tool for nonprofits that require little effort and can have measurable impact when it comes to your organization’s communications goals.

What Makes Newsletters Work Well for Non-profits?

Nonprofits are already developing content — whether they publish press releases to announce new partnerships, produce videos to show their work in action or run social media campaigns, each piece of content takes time to develop. By populating a newsletter with links to existing content, you double the utility of that content — getting more ‘bang for your buck.’ Since newsletters are brief in form, each story only requires a headline with a 1-2 sentence description with a link to learn more. Once you put in the groundwork to create a newsletter template, it’s simple to fill in the blanks when you’ve accrued enough fresh content. Let’s get started!

1. Select a Newsletter Platform

You will need an online platform to send mass mailings that utilize HTML (tech-speak for being able to send designed emails with photos and graphics). Other than providing hundreds of editable templates to choose from, platforms also provide contact management systems; tools that invite your audience to sign up for your newsletter. They also generally provide analytics — reports on how many recipients open each email, and which links they click. Some well-known platforms include MailChimp, Constant Contact and iContact. The pricing structures usually increase based on the number of email contacts you add to your account.

2. Choose a Newsletter Template

Begin this process by brainstorming a list of the types of content your organization usually produces and the goals of your newsletter. Decide on a template that will help your organization show off its best assets at the top of the newsletter. For example, if you take really engaging photos, choose a template with a large banner image to grab readers’ attention. Or, if you are working toward better brand recognition, place the logo of your organization front and center. In addition to highlighting news, consider adding a special section, like alumni updates, volunteer of the month, or current statistics — something that is relevant to your organization and is easy to update frequently.

3. Make a Plan

Using the goals of your newsletter as a guide, set up a plan and process for this new element of your communications and marketing plan. Do you have enough content for a monthly newsletter? Will a schedule that’s based around your organization’s activities work better? Who is responsible for collecting content to feed the newsletter, and who will need to approve the newsletter before it is sent? These are all questions that are important to discuss, and it’s best to put the proposed strategy in writing for other team members to see, even if changes are made during the learning and implementation process.

4. Develop a Strong Subscriber List

It’s important to follow internet protocol here — never directly add contacts to your newsletter list. Users must opt in to receive email. If you already keep a database of your organization’s contacts, send an email explaining what they will get out of your newsletter, why it matters to them and provide a link for them to register. Be sure to follow up individually with your most important contacts, like donors, to make sure they have subscribed — you want them to see their brand highlighted alongside the work they support. Continue to grow your list by inviting social media users to subscribe, and adding a sign-up page as a widget on your organization’s Facebook page and website—this is a tool most email platforms offer along with step-by-step instructions.

If you follow these steps, you’ve done the hardest part of adding newsletters to your nonprofit’s marketing strategy. Once you have everything set up and a plan in place, it’s time to add your most engaging content, send your first email, and start collecting content for the next one!

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