- Ditch the letter from your director.
Letters from the director are typically full of jargon and behind-the-scenes minutiae, leaving readers feeling left out of the conversation. Effective email newsletters focus primarily on your readers, what they care about, and how they can connect to you and your cause. Very brief director letters can work, but they must have a laser focus on the reader: plenty of "you," "you," and more "you." What if your director really loves writing that letter? Give her a blog and link to it.
- Pare down your calendar of events.
Instead of including a great big event calendar with boxes for each day of the week, put that elsewhere online (try Google Calendar, for example). In your newsletter, highlight a few upcoming events and include a link to the full calendar.
- Swap boring photos for shots with purpose.
Group photos of your board, "big check" photos, and the like waste precious space in email. Choose photos that are mission-oriented and send a clear message to your reader. A close-up shot of one person will beat a group shot nine times out of 10.
- Leave the masthead behind.
In a print newsletter, you’ll often find a masthead with complete contact information for the group, a list of the board of directors and newsletter staff, and your organization’s mission statement. While you should include your group’s contact information in your e-newsletter (CAN-SPAM rules require you to include your mailing address), leave the rest of that stuff for your website and fill that space with interesting content instead.
- Trim articles to match attention spans.
Your donors have lots of email to wade through every day. Make your point with short articles of 250 to 500 words, tops. If you need to go longer, include an excerpt in the email and have readers click over to your website for the full article.
- Transform big display ads into useful content.
The majority of your email should be text, not images. You know those big ads in your print newsletter that advertise everything from your group’s events to your sponsor’s products and services? Yep, they need to go. Create smaller button ads or, even better, turn that advertising into real content that will interest your readers. Make what you’re promoting relevant to them and to your cause.
- Simplify complicated charts and tables.
Email newsletters display differently depending on which email program your readers use to view them. This makes including charts and tables a crapshoot. What’s the solution? Save those elements as GIFs or JPEGs and insert them into your newsletter that way. Remember: You’re working with less space, so make your graphics as simple as possible.