Email newsletters (or e-newsletters) are a great way to keep your supporters and constituents informed about all the happenings, needs and triumphs of your nonprofit.
One of the hardest things about regularly distributing an email newsletter is generating content. Content, regardless of it’s delivery system (email, social, blog, etc.) is tough to create for folks who don’t get excited about a blank Word doc or a video camera staring them in the face.
Because content creation can be so taxing (time and energy), it’s always a shame when an email newsletter is the only place that content exists.
Let’s start thinking about email newsletters differently
For most nonprofits, an email newsletter is a like a stork delivery; the stork being email as the distribution channel, and the newsletter itself being an expertly wrapped newborn baby just waiting to be delivered.
That baby only gets delivered once, and now only exists in the hands of the recipient.
Let’s imagine your email newsletter contains an original article by your executive director, a few other bits of news about your organization, a story about someone you serve and a few advertisements for upcoming events. If all of this content was 1) written expressly for your newsletter and 2) only exists in your newsletter, it’s shelf life and exposure is very limited. Furthermore, you can only gauge it’s success by delivery rates and email open rates, which hardly communicate what content was read, skimmed over or ignored.
Ditch the stork (sorry, baby)
Rather than a stork, what if your email newsletter was a subway train, which moves recipients from their email inbox to your website?
Ideally, that article from your ED, recent news, stories and other pieces of content should be written for and reside on your website first. When this happens, your newsletter should simply direct recipients to the content, rather than hold the content itself.
This is ideal for a number of reasons:
1. That content can be consumed by more than just your email subscribers (organic website visitors, referral website visitors, social media followers, etc.). Don’t hold your content hostage!
2. You can track its effectiveness. When your newsletter contains links to content, rather than the full content itself, you can track what content gets clicked, and therefore measure how interesting it is to recipients. This way, you can begin to hone your content and discard what doesn’t get clicks.
3. You can convert website visitors. Given the investment in content creation, one of the worst things that can happen is for a newsletter recipient to read an article and then trash the email. There’s nothing else for them to do! However, if they are directed to your website to read the article, you can include a call-to-action to take the next step (maybe it’s a donation, sign-up or registration).
So if you’re blogging, use your newsletter to get people to visit your blog. If you’re creating videos, infographics or podcasts, embed that content on your website and send newsletter subscribers to them. If you want to update people on recent news about your charity, have a recent news page (or blog category) on your site and send people there.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. does a great job of this in their e-newsletter:
All of this feature content links to a unique page on their website. Donor of the Month and Volunteer of the Month are great ideas that any organization can do.
The differing calls-to-action (apply today, read more, check it out) are enticing and offer variety to the reader.
I often see nonprofits who republish their newsletter on their website after it’s been sent. Let’s do the opposite! Start adding content regularly to your website and use email to deliver people to it, rather than delivering content to them.
After all, that stork is probably getting tired.
How does your organization utilize email newsletters or email in general? Let me know in the comments below!