This Thursday (April 7, 2011), I’m presenting a webinar called “Rethinking Your Nonprofit Newsletter: Making It More Relevant for Today.” I first presented this webinar back in September, and one of the big questions that people wanted to discuss was:
Is it better to keep your email newsletter to members only or make it openly available?
You can replace “members” with “donors” or any other exclusive subset of your mailing list. The question is basically the same.
The answer to this question really comes down to value.
Just how valuable is the content in your nonprofit’s newsletter? Is it more valuable to you to get that information out to your community, or is it so valuable to them that they would call you on the phone looking for it if they didn’t receive it?
Many nonprofits include a newsletter as a member or donor benefit, and therefore don’t send it to others. And in many cases, I think that’s a horrible decision that doesn’t match today’s information economy, nor today’s content marketing strategies. You want to present your organization as a helpful, knowledgeable source on your topic, and you want to do that with anyone who will listen (or read in this case), which argues for more open distribution.
Most nonprofit newsletters are, in fact, more valuable to the organization than to the reader — you are trying to get the word out about this, that, or the other. You would LOVE your readers to share the information in your newsletter with others (whether via forward to a friend or social media).
So why wouldn’t you send that newsletter to anyone who has requested it, regardless of whether they are paid members?
Yes, I’m talking to associations with paid membership dues too. Look at the content you are putting in your newsletter. Could it just as easily appear on your blog, or website home page, or Facebook? If yes, then it’s not really “members only” material in my book.
If you really do want to send something out to members only, you have to make it good. REALLY GOOD. Something that they can’t find anywhere else, at least not in that format, or that quickly. It has to be so good that when they don’t get it, they notice quickly, and miss it. Not having it creates a void, or lets problems they had solved by becoming a member creep back up on them. That’s the kind of content that is worth paying for, and worth locking down behind a pay wall or members-only e-newsletter.
Everything else is just a wasted opportunity on your part to build rapport with others who are not yet paying for the membership (which should be providing value in lots of other ways too — not just via a newsletter).
If you want to learn more about how I think nonprofit newsletter strategy has changed, and needs to continue to change, I hope you’ll join us Thursday!