Stop right there.

When you read that headline, were you thinking it meant something like, "Producing my newsletter is a big fat waste of my time because the newsletter doesn't really do anything for our organization" or were you thinking, "My readers think my newsletter is a big fat waste of their time because it's boring and useless to them"?

Let's look at what's going on with both reactions . . .

Do newsletters work for nonprofit organizations?

I'm a huge advocate of regular, ongoing communications with your supporters and a newsletter is often the default format. I recommend all the time, for example, that nonprofits just starting out with email marketing try to produce a monthly e-newsletter.

But as with any communications channel, you need to have clear goals in mind. What are you hoping to achieve with this newsletter? How does it help you reach your marketing goals and your strategic goals?

If you are producing a newsletter just for the sake of doing it, without a strategic purpose behind it, your newsletter might just be a big fat waste of time. That doesn't necessarily mean you should stop producing it, but that you need to rethink your newsletter strategy.

Do people want to read newsletters from nonprofits?

Your donors want to hear about the good work you are doing with their help. Your volunteers want to feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. Your members want to feel like belonging really helps them. (If you publish a members-only newsletter, read my blog post on why that may be a bad idea.)

A newsletter can be a very helpful communications tool in all of these circumstances. Open rates for nonprofit email newsletters are right up there with, and often exceed, typical open rates for other business/commercial email.

But you have to create content in your newsletter that is genuinely interesting and valuable to your readers, whoever they may be. Do you know what they want to get from you? Have you asked? Are you giving them content they really do want, or are you broadcasting messages you want them to have?

If you are thinking of your newsletter as just another broadcast tool to reach supporters, it may be a big fat waste of their time (and yours). Instead, rethink your newsletter strategy and use the newsletter as a way to demonstrate that your organization is a helpful, thoughtful partner working on a cause you both care about, and use it as one more way to embrace your community of supporters and let them know how much their support matters to your success.

Rethinking Your Newsletter Strategy - The Webinar

Thursday, April 7, at 1:00 p.m. ET (10:00 a.m. PT), I'm presenting a webinar called Rethinking Your Nonprofit Newsletter: Making It More Relevant for Today. I hope you can join us for a lively training and discussion!