Your non-profit newsletter is the backbone of your donor cultivation and stewardship efforts. Though some organizations send out snail mail newsletters, most non-profits use e-mail newsletters to keep in touch with their supporters.
E-mail newsletters work because they are a quick, cheap, and easy way to communicate with your entire audience… and because donors enjoy getting them. Your non-profit newsletter doesn’t need to be intimidating. Generally speaking, one person at your organization can write, create, and send an e-mail newsletter in half a day or less.
Remember, the goal of your non-profit newsletter is to cultivate and communicate with your donors – not to make direct asks. While some consultants will tell you that you should always ask for money in your e-mail newsletters, I strongly disagree. My rule of thumb is: let your asks be asks and your cultivation be cultivation. Send out newsletters that build a relationship with your donors, then later send out e-mail appeal letters that ask for money. You’ll raise far more this way.
Ready to build a successful e-mail newsletter program for your organization? Here are 5 ways you can supercharge your non-profit newsletter:
#1: Mix Up Your Content
Many organizations send out the same mix of content in their newsletters. If your non-profit newsletter looks the same each time people receive it, they will stop opening your e-mails. You need to mix up your content if you want people to stay engaged.
There are dozens of types of articles you can include in your e-mail newsletter, including:
- Program updates
- Event updates
- Stories about those you have helped
- Donor profiles
- Staff profiles
- Board member profiles
- Volunteer profiles
- News from your mission field
- Pictures and videos from your work
- Stories about your non-profit’s vision for the future
Be sure to keep mixing up the content in your non-profit newsletter so that people don’t get bored!
#2: Link Back to Your Site… Often!
One great way to leverage your non-profit newsletter is to include lots of links back to your organization’s website. Use your e-mail newsletter to direct people back to your site for more information, or to read different articles, or to see more pictures or videos from your work.
Including lots of links back to your website has a dual effect. First, it will help you keep your newsletter shorter (more on that later) by allowing you to include the first paragraph or two from an article and a link for people to read the rest.
Second, including lots of links will help drive people back to your website. This is good because you want donors to see your website as a resource for information. Your website is also where donors can make online gifts, sign-up to volunteer, etc. Be sure to include links back to your site in every one of your non-profit newsletters!
#3: Make Your Non-Profit Newsletter Look Easy to Read
The average non-profit newsletter looks crowded and difficult to read. It’s too busy, has too much text, and tries to include too many different articles. If your non-profit newsletter looks hard to read, people won’t read it. They’ll set it aside but forget to come back later or may even delete it outright.
Make sure your e-mail newsletters look easy to read. This means you should use a large enough font size (15 point or higher), include lots of white space, and only include a couple of articles. Some of the best e-mail newsletters I have ever seen were simple and included just one or two articles and perhaps a picture or two to break up the text.
#4: Use a Simple Template
Some non-profits use their donor database to send out their e-mail newsletters. Others use a provider like AWeber, Constant Contact, or MailChimp to send out their e-mails. No matter what system you use, your platform probably has a number of different design templates for your non-profit newsletter. Be sure you choose a simple template for your e-mails.
There are lots of overly busy templates out there with two sidebars, fancy fonts, buttons and highlights in between articles, etc. Avoid these types of templates. The only goal for your newsletter is for it to look so interesting and easy to read that your donors can’t help but read it. The best way to do this is by using a simple e-mail template.
#5: Send on a Regular Schedule
The best scenario for your non-profit newsletter is that your donors come to see it as an enjoyable way to stay connected with your organization. You want them to rely on your newsletter for updates and information… and in order to do that, you need to send out your non-profit newsletter on a regular schedule.
In my experience, the best schedule for most non-profits is to send out your newsletter on a weekly basis. Second best is every other week, and third best is monthly. If you don’t send out your newsletter on at least a monthly basis, you’ll lose most of the cultivation benefit from it, because your donors will get out of the habit of reading your e-mails and may even forget they signed up for your newsletter.
Your non-profit newsletter is a powerful communication tool and can provide a great boost to your fundraising efforts. Use these 5 ideas to help supercharge your newsletter and get maximum benefit out of your e-mail list. (For more information on how to grow your e-mail list, read: How to Grow Your Non-Profit’s E-Mail List).