Email Newsletters for Nonprofits - No Matter Where You Are!

Whether you are just starting out with an email newsletter or if you are ready for more advanced tips, we have you covered.


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? Or to educate donors about the work they have supported in the past? Or to provide services to members? Knowing what you want to achieve via email is essential to creating the right content and delivery schedule.

Use an Email Service Provider

Before you email anything though, you absolutely need to find an email service provider. You cannot send bulk emails from Gmail or Outlook. Using a service such as Bloomerang, VerticalReponse, MailChimp, or ConstantContact, will ensure you comply with CAN-SPAM laws and allows you to manage your email lists more effectively.  You will also be able to set up html emails easier as many ESPs have several templates and colors to choose from.

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 – max) 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 and Other Microcontent

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.

Organize Your Content with an Editorial Calendar

Your editorial calendar can be a Word doc, an Excel file, or an actual calendar. It just needs to be in a format that can be shared and viewed by others. The next decision is really one of personal preference: do you prefer to see topics, assignments, channels, and dates at a glance in a spreadsheet layout, or do you prefer to organize this same information on a calendar? You can organize the calendar by channel (newsletter, social media, blog), by audience (e.g. teachers, parents, students), or by program if you run several different programs that each need the same attention.

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.

Measure and Create Your Own Benchmarks

Keep an eye on industry benchmark reports that share email metrics for the nonprofit sector. But also create your own benchmarks so you know how you are doing by your own standards. Begin tracking data such as email newsletter subscribers, open rates, click throughs, actions (like donations) and unsubscribers. After you have your benchmarks, compare each new email newsletter you send against your benchmark rates and update your numbers periodically.


15 Days to More Engaging, Inspiring E-Newsletters

After you register for this course, you will work through the lessons and receive a doable challenge, along with some tips and resources to help you make your e-newsletter more inspiring, engaging, and effective.

This course is part of our Free Membership. Learn more and get your Customized Training Plan!