Tips on Nonprofit Email Newsletters

Knowing what you want to achieve via email is essential to creating the right content and delivery schedule.

Determine What Your Newsletter is For

The first thing you need to do is figure out what role your email newsletter will play in your overall communications strategy.

  • Are you using email to motivate action like donations or volunteering?
  • Are you educating donors about the work they have supported in the past?
  • Are you providing services to members?

Create a Simple Email Newsletter

You need to realize that an email newsletter is not your print newsletter attached to an email as a PDF or just a link to an online version. The email copy itself must have timely content that is relevant to the reader. Keep the layout simple and mobile-friendly. Write shorter articles ( 400 words – maximum) and if you must go longer, put an excerpt in the email with a link to the full article on your website.

Create Great Subject Lines

Don’t sabotage a perfectly good email newsletter with an uninspiring subject line like “August Newsletter.” As much thought, if not more, needs to go into your subject line as goes into the content inside your newsletter. Then, you need to make the email skimmable with informative headlines and bolded important text. The reader should know with just a glance what the main point of a story is.

Make It All About the Reader

Even though it’s an organizational newsletter, email is a very personal channel so adopt a more friendly tone. Write as one person to another not as an institution to a faceless name. Personalize the emails using the merge fields provided by your ESP (contact’s first name, etc). Do reader surveys and find out what they want from your newsletter. What are their interests, wants and needs? Why should they read (and then care) about what you have to say in your newsletter?

Give the Reader Something to Do

Every newsletter should include some type of call to action. Ask them to share a piece of information on their social network. Include a donate button. Give them a phone number to call. Invite them to follow you on your social networks. Give them some suggestions as to how they can help your cause in their own personal way.

Segment Your Email List

Don’t treat all subscribers and donors the same. Segment your list and send customized versions of emails to different segments, or send exclusive offers to different groups. For example, build one list consisting of volunteers only and another for donors. This allows you to create messages that are more targeted and relevant, which means they are more likely to be opened, read, and acted upon.