When I first started working in nonprofit communications, the job was really all about the newsletter. The nonprofit newsletter, first in print and then in email, was the mainstay of communications between the nonprofit and its supporters. More than any other piece of communications, the newsletter consumed a lot of staff time and energy, not to mention the money spent on printing and mailing the print version.
Is the nonprofit newsletter still all that?
I’m not sure. Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s a question I want to try to answer this month, with your help.
Certainly some organizations still rely heavily on their newsletters to produce real results. I’m thinking of groups that do lots of events, like performing arts orgs for example, who need a frequent and consistent way to communicate about their events calendars. Same goes for organizations who position themselves as curators of the news in their field: they use the newsletter to bring the “best of” to their list of subscribers. You also have nonprofits who use the newsletter primarily as a donor-centered fundraising tool. (Tom Ahern is writing a new book on this and doing an e-clinic for us on raising money with print newsletters in September.)
But what about all of those other newsletters — perhaps the vast majority of nonprofit newsletters — that are really just FYI updates, organizational news, and soft asks for support?
Here are some of my suspicions . . .
Nonprofits are relying on social media now more than a newsletter to get quick updates out to supporters.
Nonprofits are sending emails “as needed” rather than waiting for a regularly scheduled newsletter.
Nonprofits are dropping print newsletters simply because they cost too much to produce (again, these are the orgs who don’t use them as a core revenue generator or service to members).
Or I could be completely wrong.
Let’s figure this out together. There are a few ways you can participate:
Take the survey. I’ve put together a quick survey asking how your newsletter has changed. I’ll share the results of the survey in a blog post later this month. As an incentive for filling it out, I’m giving away a free newsletter review to randomly selected participants.
Confirm or deny my suspicions. Leave a comment on this blog post letting me know your take.
Write a blog post about nonprofit newsletters. I’m hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival on nonprofit newsletters this month. Write a blog post about the role of the newsletter, or changes you see, and send me the link so I can include it in the Carnival. Deadline is August 28. Don’t have a blog of your own where you can publish your story? You can send it to me as a guest post for this blog.
I hope you’ll share your thoughts in one or more of these ways!