Three Steps to Improve Your Nonprofit Newsletter

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The nonprofit e-newsletter is an essential piece of how your nonprofit communicates with its supporters. It can be a perfect way for you to provide useful, directed content to your audience to keep them engaged. Or, it can bore your audience, and get sent directly to the trash.

Here are three steps to improve your newsletter and your list to help your message reach the right people.

  • Send it to the right people (because even perfect content is useless if it’s not reaching the right person).

Bounces can do some serious damage. Most e-mail clients can automatically remove bounces if they happen frequently enough, however you can take also an additional step to set up an automatic e-mail “reply-to” for bounces. That way, whenever a bounce happens, you can get a notification and update your database.

Consider segmentation. Even though it may be more work, segmenting your audience can up your open and click-through rates to get exactly the type of content each of your readers want.

Re-engage your list. Send a series of e-mails to the folks on your list who haven’t opened your e-mails recently. These e-mails should tell them that you want to clean up your e-mail list, and that if they want to stay on the list, to opt-in. Once they do, add them to the engaged list. After three e-mails, take them off the list. That will ensure the readers you do have are engaged, and your open rates will improve.

  • Make your content great (because that will keep them reading).

Invest in good content. Stories are hard. They are hard to get, hard to write, and hard to share. But they make for a great newsletter, and will help your nonprofit move its mission forward. So get some good stories, and make sure they are “above the fold” in your newsletter.

Keep it short. Do not list every single thing your nonprofit is doing for the next month. Pick the top headlines, and focus on those. It’s better to have a short newsletter that gets more clicks on one thing, than a lengthy newsletter that never gets opened because it’s overwhelming.

Consider segmentation again. The biggest thing segmentation does is help your supporters get the content they want. Do your volunteers want the same information as your donors? Probably not. Separate out the different groups and target content to what that community wants.

  • Grow your list (because your list is shrinking as you are reading this).

Encourage sharing. By doing this, you are giving your readers opportunities to take action other than donating. Do you have an event you want more attendees to come to? Ask your readers to forward the newsletter, encouraging their friends to attend or subscribe.

Make it easy to sign up. Make sure people can sign up for your newsletter on every page of your website, and have one sentence enticing them about the content they will receive. Also, consider having a lightbox that pops up the first time they visit your site.

Create a newsletter archive. By creating a newsletter archive on your website, you can link current issues directly to your website and provide a place for people to look at previous issues. That will provide real value to your visitors and encourage them to sign up to receive future newsletters.

Add offline opportunities to sign up. There are many places you can have opportunities for people to sign up for your nonprofit’s updates. For example, in addition to having a sign up form on your homepage and asking on social media, have a sign up sheet at all of your events. Or have people drop their business card in a bowl when they visit your office.

These easy steps will help your nonprofit reach the right people and cut through the noise of everyone’s inbox.

Need help implementing? Contact us to see what else your nonprofit can do to improve its online communications.


Allison is a nonprofit communications consultant and friend of Williams Whittle who specializes in creating affordable communications strategies for small nonprofits. She has five years of nonprofit and association experience including developing communications strategies, conducting an organizational rebrand, and building a custom social network.


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