Newsletters are a great tool to engage, inform and education donors. They add variety to your communications mix and – when done well – they can actually provide value to your readers. But there are a lot of newsletters out there that were probably best left un-sent. To help you avoid common non-profit newsletter pitfalls, I’m going to share 7 steps to creating a better non-profit newsletter.
As an FYI – I’m mostly going to reference e-mail newsletters but these principles are also applicable to print newsletters.
Define an Objective
It’s safe to say that you’re not producing a newsletter because you’ve got nothing else to do. You’re creating a newsletter because you see it as a tool; a means to an end. It is important to identify what objective you are trying to achieve by writing a newsletter. Write it on a post-it note and look at it every time you sit down to write. Then once you’re done ask yourself, “Does this copy meet my objective?”
An example of an objective could be – To inform our donors of the impact their gifts have on our mission.
Establish a Few Metrics
There are two ways to look at metrics related to your newsletter. The first considers your content. Once you’ve determined an objective, find a few metrics that will help you quantify your success towards achieving that objective. For instance, you could look at the stories you share each month or the number of tangible outcomes you report per newsletter.
The second looks at your audiences’ reaction/engagement. You could select a few metrics that indicate escalating success of your newsletter. That could include open rate or list growth.
Know Your Reader
How well do you know your current audience? I’m always surprised how many people tell me that they have never created any kind of audience profile. This is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to non-profit communications. The more you know your audience, the better you can tailor your content to resonate with them. Ultimately that means that your efforts will be more effective.
You can begin is this process by thinking about their demographics, what they like about your organization and what value you can add to their lives.
Use a Consistent Format
Consistent format and frequency is one of the simplest things you can do to build trust and likeability with your audience. If you use an email marketing service to send out your newsletters, develop a template that you/your team commits to using.
Additionally, set a regular schedule for sending your newsletter. Be it monthly, quarterly or something else. Mark the send date on your calendar.
Decide on a Theme or a Core Message
When you sit down to write your newsletter, develop a theme or core message for each one that reflects your objective. Again, this is just another tool to help you stay on point and not overwhelm your readers with too much information that doesn’t seem connected.
Make the Most of Headlines
Headlines are a great way to make your newsletter easy to read and skim. Strategically use them to draw your audience’s attention to the content by catching their interest and encouraging them to read further. Ask a question. Make a bold statement. Use a surprising fact.
It Doesn’t Always Have to be Text
The answer is no, it does not always have to be text. Your newsletter could be a video update, pictures or something else entirely. The medium is not as important as your objective and your theme/core message. In fact, depending on what yours are, it might be worthwhile to explore and test other mediums for your non-profit’s newsletter.
Newsletters are a cornerstone of many communications plans for non-profit donors. Not only are they a tool to help your organization build relationships, they provide a platform for accountability and stewardship. This, of course, is key for donor retention.
Looking for some newsletter inspiration? Check out these 5 non-profit newsletter examples.