Email Newsletter Tips for the Nonprofit News Venture

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Email newsletters remain a popular outreach mechanism for any organization. Nowadays, despite all the focus on social media, email remains a popular way to reach audiences. In fact, many organizations are recognizing the potential of combining their social media efforts with their email marketing strategies to reach the most people possible.

As a nonprofit news organization, there are several potential advantages to creating and developing email newsletters. You can reach your existing audience base and provide them additional information and value beyond what they are getting from your current news products, you can communicate with donors and other stakeholders by keeping them posted on your progress, and attract new audiences to your news organization’s website.

When creating an email newsletter, there are several aspects to consider.

Premise and Purpose

When starting to think about creating an email newsletter, you should consider the following:

  • What is the premise for creating the newsletter? Is it for outreach? Is it to spread information about your organization’s work? Is it to update the public on specific initiatives your organization has taken on? Determining the premise of the newsletter can help you determine what you should do with the newsletter and what kind of content it should have.
  • Who is your audience for the newsletter? As a nonprofit news organization, you have many constituencies. Do you want to inform your readers about recent news stories your staff has published? Do you want to inform donors, board members or other stakeholders about your recent programs and initiatives? It’s important to think about the audiences for your newsletter and what kind of content they would be interested in.

Content

Another important factor to consider is the kind of content you will feature in the newsletter.

  • What kind of information do you want to provide to your audience? You don’t want to provide an exact copy of what is available on your website. Subscribers will notice that as soon as they open the email and will delete your message in an instant. The content you offer in your newsletter should be unique, different and support your existing content initiatives.

Here are some potential ideas for content to feature in your newsletter:

  • Best stories of the week or day. Feature the best work of your staff and highlight it and why it is important.
  • Membership or donor benefits. If you have a specific membership or donation program, you can highlight that in the newsletter and highlight specific members or donors in your newsletter.
  • Calendar. Does your organization host or sponsor events? Provide a calendar and save-the-date reminders in your newsletter.
  • Success stories. Share with your donors or stakeholders information about major initiatives you have taken on and the impact of the outreach.
  • Behind the Scenes. Tell your readers how your news organization works or how they go about getting the story. Often these insider stories are intriguing for readers and it will entice them to want to know more about your organization and the work of your staff.

Style/Voice

When creating an email newsletter, you don’t want it to be just a cut and paste of information from your website. An email is a form of personal communication and your email newsletter should reflect that same tone. Find a way to incorporate an informal, conversational voice or style in your newsletters. Make sure to include a byline of whoever writes the newsletter. This can help your readers to know who is the person behind the newsletter and make it a more personal experience – allowing your subscribers to feel a closer connection to your news organization.

Find a Provider

As a nonprofit news organization, you may think you can just send out an email newsletter to your readers from your own personal email account but this is a mistake. You should make the investment to purchase an agreement with an email marketing provider. They can provide many benefits which includes:

  • Registration automation
  • Monitoring of accounts (spammers, dead emails, unsubscribers, etc.)
  • Statistics and analysis
  • Compliance with CAN-SPAM regulations as a nonprofit

Having an email marketing provider can make your life easier. They can help provide you with the necessary backend systems to make newsletter management easy and efficient.

Here are a just a few providers that offer discounts for nonprofit organizations:

It’s also important to create an email privacy policy and communicate that information in your newsletter that will help your readers to know exactly what is happening to the information they provide when they sign up for your newsletter. You should also provide clear information on how they can sign up or opt-out of your newsletter at any time.

Segmentation

As a nonprofit news organization you have many different constituencies, it may be worth it to segment your newsletter list into groups by

  • readers by zipcode or neighborhood
  • donors
  • stakeholders
  • board members
  • potential donors/stakeholders, etc.

By segmenting your email lists you can send specific newsletters that are targeted to those specific audiences and their interests. Segmenting your email lists can also be helpful when you are measuring your impact and analyzing your newsletter statistics.

Opt-In Options

Also, it’s important to consider the sign-up or registration process for your newsletter. There are two options:

  • Single opt-in: A person visits your site, fills in the form and is instantly signed up to receive your newsletter.
  • Double opt-in: A person visits your site, fills in the form, receives an email to confirm subscription and clicks link, and then is signed up for the newsletter.

The double opt-in strategy is the best option as it prevents fake accounts or spammers from attacking your system as it relies on authentication of the email address and the subscriber.

Format

When it comes to laying out your newsletter, content is one aspect to consider but how the content is displayed is another important factor.

  • From line: Make sure your from field is the name of your organization and not the name of a specific person. This will show up in the inboxes of your subscribers and they will be more comfortable with opening an email by the name of your organization versus a personal email address of someone they don’t know.
  • Subject line: Make sure your subject line is enticing, engaging and informative. It should not just say ‘News Organization Newsletter’ but should highlight the subject matter of your newsletter and should be representative of the content for that day or week.
  • Display. People have different preferences of how they like to view newsletters – in either a format that is text-based or html-based (which can include images). You should create two versions to make sure you are reaching both kinds of subscribers.
  • Graphics. Don’t be too visually-heavy in your newsletter – keep photos and graphics to a minimum because your subscribers may not want to or be able to view the images. The images can also weigh down the subscriber’s inbox if the images are fairly large.
  • Conciseness. It’s important to realize that people want to skim and scan when they get email newsletters. So your newsletter should not be lengthy but concise. Only identify those key items you want to highlight and keep those descriptions to a sentence or less. Try to prevent the need for subscribers to scroll through the content.
  • Less links. Don’t bombard your audience with tons of links in the newsletter. Identify only those items that exist on your website that are link-worthy. You may also want to consider hyperlinking out to your media partners/collaborators in your newsletter. Be sparse with linking, people don’t want an email just full of links.
  • Table of Contents. Make it easy for your readers and provide them with a brief summary of what they can find in your newsletter with a Table of Contents at the beginning of the newsletter so they know what they can expect in the newsletter and decide what they want to look at.
  • Sharing. Don’t forget to make your newsletter social media-friendly to allow subscribers to share the newsletter content on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

Measurement

Another key aspect to having an email newsletter is measuring your impact.

Many email marketing companies can provide you with a variety of reports and statistics on the performance of your newsletter. Most newsletters can provide you with information on your open-rate which is the number of people who open your newsletter from their inbox and the click-through rate which is the number of people who click on links from your newsletter.

It’s also important to pay attention to how many people unsubscribe and subscribe each time you launch a new newsletter and as well as pay attention to your churn rate – that is the number of emails that may bounce back from people who changed email addresses and never updated their email with your newsletter system.

All of this information can help you to know how your newsletter is doing and what steps you need to take to make it better the next time and how many efforts you need to make to gain more subscribers. Don’t forget to survey your subscribers from time to time to ask them what they think of the newsletter and what they would like to see more or less of. This can be insightful information as you revise your newsletter strategy.

Ongoing Maintenance

When you start a newsletter, the key part is maintenance. You must have a consistent schedule of when you will publish and publish frequently. Will it be daily, twice a week, weekly or monthly? It depends on how much information you have and what kind of resources you have to devote to this kind of operation in your organization.

Marketing

Don’t forget that you should market your newsletter as much as possible – make sure to let people know about it and how to subscribe to it throughout your website. Make sure to reference to your newsletter from your social media channels. Also, when you are hosting or attending events, let people know about your newsletter and let them know how they can sign-up by providing them with a simple flyer or card.

Whether you have a newsletter marketing strategy already or are new to the process, these tips can help you move forward with strengthening your newsletter efforts or help you to make the first steps toward creating a sound email newsletter strategy.

It’s important to remember that the efforts you make toward your email newsletter strategy will be what you get out of it – whether that means gaining or retaining readers, better communication with your constituents, or finding new ways for general outreach. The power is in your hands to make the most out of your email newsletter strategy.

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