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Nonprofit newsletter tips

Four ways to make your organization’s newsletters stand out

It's important for your organization's newsletters to stand out. Take a minute to look in your email inbox. There are probably a few emails from coworkers, maybe some from friends and family. I’d guess, however, that most of your inbox is filled with product offers from your favorite stores and newsletters from brands you like and organizations you are part of or who send you information you find interesting.  

Most of us receive newsletters daily - via email, mail or both. They are a popular tool for organizations to tell their stories, share relevant content and keep their target audiences involved and interested. However, with the number of newsletters people are receiving, it can be difficult to gain and keep their attention.

Research conducted by Constant Contact and Mailchimp, two popular online email marketing platforms, shows that the average number of industry contacts that open their email marketing content is 20-21%. And these numbers do not take into account the number of people that receive newsletters in the mail and throw them away without so much as a glance.

While this may sound dismal, do not let these numbers alarm or deter you and your organization from sharing newsletters. At Dot Org, we have seen, and even created, newsletter campaigns that have performed above the industry average and kept recipients interested. In fact, we are always looking for ways to improve open rates.

Here are some ways to help your organization’s newsletter stand out in a sea of email and mail:

1. Take the time to design a quality header.

Research shows that people view online content, particularly webpages, in a variety of ways. However, their eyes almost always start by looking at the top of a page and working their way down. This means that header images for websites, social media profiles and newsletters will grab a person’s attention first (check out these tips on designing a quality hero image from PikWizard).

Therefore, you need to make sure your organization’s newsletter header stands out.

Make sure header images communicate your organization’s overall brand and incorporate compelling design elements. Yes, images that do this do take time and resources to create. It is worth it, though, because it will help your newsletter stick out among the crowd and create consistency for your brand.

2. Include advice and insights of industry leaders and employees.

In this blog post about generating readable newsletter content, HubSpot reminds marketers to “have a deep understanding of their audience and what they care about.”

Recipients of newsletters for nonprofits and small businesses usually do not just care about those organizations. They care about the people being served by or contributing to the organization.

If you are developing content for your organization’s newsletter, you can truly give your readers what they want by including a blog post, article or column by an employee of an organization, an industry thought leader or a client/patient (with permission, of course) in the content.

Encourage your writer to cover a topic that is interesting to your audiences. Ask them to include insights, advice and anecdotes while also incorporating facts and statistics in their pieces. And, although you can (and should) proofread their content before it goes to print or gets delivered, make sure to let writers use their own words and provide details about their own experiences.

Don’t focus on telling the story of your organization by yourself. Let people involved help you. Trust me – your audiences will appreciate it and be more engaged.

3. Build your newsletter with RELEVANT articles and events.

When someone subscribes to a newsletter, they are looking for content that is unique to a specific organization and industry. They want to see things that are relevant to what that organization does and who they serve or cater to.

According to Disqus, 72% of people surveyed stated that they subscribed to email newsletters because they wanted to learn more about a topic that interested them. The recipients of your newsletters most likely feel the same way.

Think about why your audience subscribed to your organization’s newsletter in the first place and include events and articles that are relevant to them.

For example, if you are a nonprofit that assists people living with mental and behavioral health issues, include dates to upcoming programs you or local mental health organizations are hosting. Attach articles about mental health trends. Include news stories about how your organization is making a difference. And don’t forget to tap into the expertise of your own staff so they can share their perspective and stories.

4. Incorporate the right amount of dynamic graphics.

We have all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Yet, images and graphics do more than replace an abundance of copy. They also appeal to viewers.

In your organization’s newsletter, do not use pictures as placeholders – allow them to represent and tell the story of your organization. For nonprofits, this could mean incorporating images of donors, volunteers and audiences served (again, with permission). For small businesses, this could mean including images of employees, executives, products and customers.

Don’t forget that copy is still relevant. While audiences will probably quickly skim or ignore a newsletter that is too copy heavy, they will also not pay attention to newsletters drowning in images. This article by Flaunt My Design provides a good idea of how many images to include in a newsletter and where to include them.

Your organization’s newsletter can be a great marketing tool for your audiences if the content and imagery is engaging and compelling. You cannot slap a newsletter together and expect it to work. It takes energy and effort for a newsletter to create a newsletter that will stick out in someone’s inbox (or mailbox).

And, if you don’t have the time to do this, we can help.


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