Is Your NonProfit Using E-Newsletter to Communicate?

8 10 2010

In some of our previous social media posts, we put a lot of emphasis on Twitter, Facebook and other similar sites. While it’s very important to become comfortable with these and other media outlets, it’s equally important not overlook the most widely used method to reach your audience: e-mail. With all of the options out there available for communicating, e-mail is still the most widely used and most popular tool on the Internet.

E-mail can be used for quick updates to your volunteer pool or it can be as involved as a fundraising letter to your donors. One of the more popular uses for e-mail, however, is e-newsletters. An e-newsletter is an important piece of correspondence that provides relevant news and articles about your animal rescue organization or products, services and other offers you may want to share. They support your brand while building loyalty and providing useful information. All in all, e-newsletters are a great way to nurture relationships with your supporters.

Before you decide on including an e-newsletter as part of your communication process, you’ll need to ask a couple of questions about your organization:

  1. How will your e-newsletter support your organization’s mission? Everything you do should be in support of what your mission is or  you are simply wasting time.
  2. Who are your targeted readers? Will you be sending this to your donors or potential donors? Volunteers? Potential supporters? All of the above?
  3. What are you hoping to accomplish with your e-newsletter? This goes hand-in-hand with deteriming your targeted readership. Are you trying to attract more volunteers or donors? Are you trying to increase donations of specific items to your shelter? Are you trying to increase traffic to your website? Are you announcing a new product or service? It’s important to decide what you want and don’t want your e-newsletter to do.

Choosing Content:

Once you use the questions above to decide on what you want in your newsletter, you can begin deciding what type of content you want to create. When deciding on your content, keep in mind that while you may be sending your e-newsletter to a specific group of people, they in turn can forward it on to others.

Your readers want to be “in the know” on topics and new information in your industry. A good e-newsletter will provide this information in the form of valuable, well-presented content. We’ve compiled a some suggestions for content, but please remember your content should be built around your goals and target audience.

  • News and updates of your organization
  • “How To” articles
  • Latest research
  • Tips
  • Guest columns
  • Projects, recipes and product reviews
  • Additions to your website
  • New blog entries
  • Upcoming events

If you will be using your articles in your content to help drive traffic to your website, make sure to provide enough content as a “teaser” to draw your readers, pique their interest enough to click on the important “Read More” link. A good teaser will include the article headline and two or three sentences of the article will usually do the trick.

Designing Your E-Newsletter

Readers like pictures – especially when the e-newsletter is being distributed to members of the animal community. Include photos as part of your articles to drive home points. Include photos of recent pet adoptions or fundraisers. Photos increase interest and that’s what you’re after right?

As for the technical aspects, you’ll want to pat attention to your headers, pre headers and footers. An easy-to-read e-newsletter will be in a two or three column format, especially if you are including a lot of text-rich content. One avenue to consider if you have the extra resources is Constant Contact. They offer many templates, full support and a 60-day free trial.

How Often?

Your e-newsletter should be treated the same as any other real publication and be sent out regularly to keep your readers interested. Once a month or once a quarter is a good schedule to follow. One thing to keep in mind: whatever schedule you decide on, stick with it and respect it. If you don’t, your readers won’t respect what you’re trying to do and you’ll end up losing them.

Your e-newsletter is a valuble tool to educate, inform and even engage your readers and supporters. Using the information outlined here can help you get the most use of your e-newsletters and help extend the reach of your organization’s mission.

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