Your Nonprofit’s Guide to Email Newsletters

We live in a world where everyone has everything at their fingertips. All throughout the day, people are constantly checking their email, updating social media, and communicating with friends and family. As a nonprofit, communicating in this day and age is easier than ever. Now, you have staff, volunteers, donors, and supporters within reach. Sending out communications is something you should regularly be taking advantage of. But are you?

Why Communication Stops

Nonprofit employees are busy. It might seem like there’s never enough time in the day to get things done or that you’re constantly staring at a never-ending to-do list. Because of this, we tend to focus only on the tangible or results-based tasks at hand. Maybe we focus more on a project we’re doing rather than spending time on creating and sending a newsletter out. Maybe we’re not pushing email list sign ups or not updating our website and social media with our newsletters because we think it’s not as important.

The truth is, making time for these communications can be a game-changer for your nonprofit. It can keep people updated, show volunteers and donors that you’re including them in your news, and drive relationships that are based on consistency. 

Creating an Email List

The first stop on your journey with sending email newsletters to supporters is to grow your list. With many free host sites out there (like MailChimp, for example), you can create and share a landing page or link with people so they can sign up. Sharing this link on Facebook, LinkedIn, and all other social media sites you utilize can help gain new followers on the list. At in-person events, utilize a sign-in list. Ask people to sign in with their name and email and make time afterwards to add them to the list. Your nonprofit might already have an email list just waiting to be utilized. Create it, share it, and start filling it up! 

What to Include

Think of email newsletters as your main way of communicating any updates, events, and share worthy information! If you get in the habit of sending them out each month, people will begin to expect and look for them. Think of them as your way to wrap-up loose ends and prepare people for the month ahead. Include items that you feel are valuable and that people will care about.

Things to include in a newsletter include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Staff Updates/New Hires
  • Current Fundraisers
  • Successes and Goals met
  • News and Notes
  • Words from the CEO
  • Volunteer Highlights/Opportunities
  • Upcoming Meetings
  • Upcoming Events
  • Donation Opportunities
  • And more…the list is endless!

How to Increase Open Rates

Once you’ve put the work together to make the email newsletter, you’re going to want people to make the time to open and read it. Start from the top and think about the subject line and sender info. When it comes to creating a subject line, you want it to be something direct. Make sure that before someone opens it, they know what to expect. Stay away from lengthy subject lines or ones that are too informal. After all, you want it to represent your nonprofit well! 

Additionally, think about your sender info. If you are emailing it from a “no-reply” email, it won’t look personal or professional. Instead, have an employee or department within your nonprofit be the sender.

When it comes to gauging the best time to send an email, it may take a few months to find that “sweet spot.” Typically, a mid-week, mid-morning send is accepted by many people. Emails sent at the beginning or end of the week might get lost in the shuffle of pre- or post- weekend craziness. Emails sent late in the evening might not be seen and then get lost under the next day’s email. Try out what works best for your nonprofit and what gets the best open-rate. 

On that note, open-rates can be key to measuring successful email campaigns. You might be able to see who didn’t open it and send it again, depending on the software. Tracking things like what content is most widely viewed, what time of sending works best, and other metrics can help you create a future email plan that works for your nonprofit. 

Now it’s Your Turn!

Has your nonprofit utilized email newsletters to keep supporters in the loop? What has worked for you? If not, what are you most excited about implementing? We’d love to hear!


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