I get about a dozen nonprofit newsletters a week. Most are so poor they aren't worth reading, and for that reason, they weren't worth writing. There are notable exceptions, but in general, I feel about newsletters the same way I feel about most mission statements-nonprofits spend a whole lot of time on them, but no one is really inspired by them. So how do you become the dazzling exception? Here are three suggestions for improving your nonprofit newsletters.
1. Don't do a newsletter, do something different.
People are inundated with newsletters, just like they are with wristbands and appeals with address labels. Yawn. So why not put your time and energy into something more unique and personalized? Like a phone call from your staff five minutes after someone gives or journal entries from program beneficiaries?
2. If you do a newsletter, write to the medium.
If you still do a newsletter through the mail, fine, if it follows #3 on this list. But when you take your newseletter online (and you should), you CANNOT simply take the format you would use in the mail and throw it into an email! Write to the medium. Online communications need to be shorter and formatted for the Web. You should not have to download a PDF and turn pages on your computer. Grab attention with photos, short text, good stories. As more consumers access your emails via mobile, you have to meet them there with worthwhile, easy-to-use content.
3. Make it about the donors and what they did -- or whoever is your target audience.
The newsletter should not be about how great you are, it should make your donor feel important. It should be about how great your donor (or audience member) is. And it should do something for that audience - make them feel good about themselves, or, if you're a membership organization, make their life easier. Giving out information about your charity is not the same thing as making someone feel good!
I'm waiting for someone to make the newsletter so much about the donor that they use technology to insert the name of the donor in the newsletter title. I'd be blown away with a newsletter called "How Katya has helped CARE". Even if you don't go that far, do everything you can to write to the audience and their interests. That's the key to a good newsletter, and the key to all marketing, always. Consumers expect us to talk to them personally, and we have to deliver.