FAQs about Nonprofit Newsletters

Here are the answers to 4 of the most frequently asked questions about print newsletters.

1. What Should Be the Focus of a Nonprofit Newsletter?

To answer this question, you first need to answer two other questions: how does your newsletter fit into your larger communications strategy and who is the audience for your newsletter?

If, for example, you want your newsletter to help you raise money, you should be writing your newsletter specifically for your donors. All of the articles in your newsletter should provide benefits or interesting information to your donors, remind them how important they are to you, and encourage them to continue to support your work.

If your newsletter is a volunteer recruitment and appreciation tool, then the articles should all be oriented toward your volunteers: how to be a great volunteer, volunteer profiles, how important volunteers are, etc.

Know what you want your newsletter to do for you and who you are writing it for and the focus of the articles will become clear.

2.How Many Fonts and Colors Should We Use?

Don’t go crazy with the fonts. To be on the safe side, stick with two fonts: one for your body text and captions and a second font for your headlines and subheads. You can use a third font as a display font for the nameplate of your newsletter and for other design elements like page numbers. Use additional fonts with extreme care. Using too many fonts in the same publication is a sure sign of an amateur designer.

As for colors, use as many as you can afford. You’ve really got three choices for print newsletter production on traditional offset printing presses: one color, two colors, or full-color, which is also called four-color. If you can afford to print in full-color, by all means, do it. Your photos will look much better. But you can also produce great-looking newsletters in one and two colors. For smaller print runs (under 1,000 copies), printing on a digital press may allow you to print in full-color at an affordable price.

3. How Long Should a Newsletter Article Be?

People expect newsletter articles to be relatively short. If most of your feature articles are 500-700 words, you’ll be fine. That’s about the length of most columns on newspaper editorial pages, for example. It’s fine to have brief articles that are shorter and maybe one or two that are longer, but in general shoot for 500-700 words.

4. What Volume and Issue Numbers Do I Use on My Newsletter?

One common way to keep track of newsletter editions is to use volume and issue numbers. The volume number refers to the set, and many people start a new set each year. So, if you started your newsletter in 2005, the newsletters published in 2005 would be Volume 1. Newsletters in 2006 would be Volume 2, and so on.

The issue number corresponds to each particular issue of your newsletter. For example, if you published five issues of your newsletter during your third year, you would label them Volume 3, Issue 1; Volume 3, Issue 2; Volume 3, Issue 3; Volume 3, Issue 4; and Volume 3, Issue 5. The first newsletter in the next year would be Volume 4, Issue 1.

You can also include a date on your newsletter such as the month or season (April 2005 or Spring 2005). Make sure that the date reflects the time when the newsletter will arrive in your readers’ mailboxes, not when you started working on it. You may be writing your newsletter in May, but if it won’t reach you reader until August, label it as the August issue.