Whether your nonprofit is publishing an email newsletter or not, you aren't alone if you have lots of questions about everything from spam filters to the right length for articles.
To get your e-newsletter right, you not only have to worry about the content and design, but the various technology issues associated with getting it delivered and into in-boxes rather than spam filters.
Here are three common questions and answers about email newsletters.
1. How do we get people to read our e-newsletter?
It all starts with the subject line. The busier your supporters are, the more likely they are to look at your email subject line and nothing else before deciding whether to read it or delete it. Pack your subject lines with details about what's inside, emphasizing the benefits to the reader of taking a few extra seconds to see what's in the body of the message. That's a tall order for 50-60 characters, which is the rule of thumb for subject line length. Your subject line should change with every edition. Don't waste space with dates, edition numbers, sender info, etc. The only exception would be if you have a very short, memorable, and meaningful newsletter title. For more tips, see Best Practices in Writing Email Subject Lines (MailChimp).
2. I'm not a graphic designer or webmaster. How do I make our email newsletter look good?
People expect to read email, which means they are looking for words. They don't expect the same visual stimulation that they do when they visit a web page. It's much more important to say something timely, interesting, or valuable than it is to produce a newsletter that's visually stunning.
At the same time, that doesn't mean you shouldn't use a stylish design and photos. Just make sure that the text gets top billing and wraps cleanly around any graphic elements, especially since those items will appear as big red Xs to a big chunk of your readers. And don't worry about needing serious design or HTML skills to produce an email newsletter. All of the major email newsletter service providers offer many templates to pick from (and yes, you should use a service rather than sending it yourself from Outlook or Gmail or whatever you use).
3. How do we get people to join our email list?
First of all, send out your newsletter regularly. An active list is much more likely to grow because people will forward it to friends and tell people about the great info they saw in your newsletter. Next, make sure it's really easy to sign up. Include a simple sign-up box on your website, ideally on every page, but on your homepage at a minimum. And make changing an address very easy. Ideally, subscribers to your newsletter can update their own email addresses with just a few clicks. The harder you make it, the less likely they are to do it and the more likely they are to drop off your list permanently.
Learn more about improving your email newsletter during our weekly webinar series.