How to Create an Email Newsletter for Your Business or Nonprofit

Does your business or nonprofit have an online newsletter or email newsletter? Do you really need one? 

For some organizations and institutions, it’s not even a question anymore. It’s just expected. Many nonprofits like schools, congregations, community centers, and NGOs have already been sending out a newsletter or bulletin regularly by mail, and now they want to, or are already, sending it out by email. (Some are now expected to be sent out via both snail mail and email, but let’s not get into that…)

If you’re embarking on a YouHelp crowdfunding campaign, it’s important to stay in contact with your potential supporters. Maintaining a current email list and distributing a digital newsletter or maintaing an online newsletter is one of the best ways to do so.

For decades, a Houston private school sent a paper weekly newsletter to all of the school families. The newsletter was sent to grandparents, alumni, and supporters of the school who wanted to be informed of all school and community activities. The newsletter included acknowledgments about births, engagements, marriages, new jobs, condolences, and major donations as well as the ongoing school events. In addition to that newsletter, another weekly newsletter was sent out to each early childhood class, created by the teachers and proofread and printed by the front office staff, to be put in each child’s backpacks by the end of the week.

The print version had been a staple in the community since the 1970’s when the school was founded.

A new tech-savvy administrator decided that it was time to collect everyone’s emails and send the “Thursday Thunder” out to all their subscribers via the internet. This put even more work on the overburdened office staff, especially with the slow computer system that got overloaded. Over time, instead of sending out via a listserv, or from a number of groups so they didn’t wind up in a spam folder, they upgraded to free trial of an email marketing software and found out how many people were actually reading the newsletters and “clicking-through” to different sections of the newsletter on their website.

They included links in the newsletter to sign up to attend, volunteer or donate to all their fundraising events and their crowdfunding campaigns. These links would go back to their school website or the crowdfunding platform.

All kinds of analytics could now be studied… and to top it off, it was much cheaper than color printing, and the families much preferred to see photos of their precious angels in color than in black and white.

As technology advances, newsletters get more creative and the online versions often have videos.

“Nonprofits that use weekly newsletters create awareness about the programs and services they provide. People want to be a part of something that’s productive and meaningful. Using a newsletter will keep your constituency informed, engaged and make them want to contribute and be a part of your next fundraiser,” said YouHelp founder and CEO, Libby Hikind. “The whole concept of crowdfunding is to reach out to the people and businesses affiliated and familiar with your nonprofit; and to increase interest in those not presently affiliated. Featuring your fundraising efforts and initiatives in a newletter together with a donate button that links back to your campaign will most definitely increase contributions.”

Let’s take a look at how an email newsletter and blog can help you. 

  • One of the best ways to engage leads – potential customers or donors, people who are already your customers/members/donors, sell more products, get more people to attend your events, find or engage volunteers for your activities, or just stay on the top of people’s minds, is to send out newsletters on a regular basis.
  • An email newsletter can help you reach your target audience. Be sure to use email marketing software, also known as “SAS” (Software as a Service) that will keep track of your open and click-through rates.
  • Email newsletters should use a variety of different types of content about different parts of your business or nonprofit, including event reminders, surveys, educational information about your products and services, or your industry and promotions. Due to their diverse content, email newsletters have a difficult time getting readers to complete a call-to-action.

Viewing Newsletter on an iPad

Newsletters can help you:

  • Spread brand awareness. Communicating with subscribers on a regular basis helps them recognize and respond positively to your brand.
  • An easy way to create the content for your newsletter is to publish recent blog posts from your website or summarize these blog posts and link them to the newsletter (or vice versa), and other content from your website like your calendar of upcoming events if you’re a nonprofit, and acknowledgments.
  • Get feedback for your products or programs through surveys linked to your email.
  • Include discounts, current sales, opportunities, and events.
  • Expand your reach –
      • Reach more people regularly than your social media pages or personal contact would.
      • It’s easy for people to forward newsletters to their friends and people they know might be interested.
  • Generate additional revenue from affiliate marketing.

Getting Started

Imitation is the best form of flattery. Take a look at successful email newsletters you’re familiar with. Use the best parts of those you like and think are effective. Pick and choose, combine different pieces of each.

Consider, with the resources you have available, can you do this successfully?

10 Newsletter Tips:

1: Readers don’t want to always feel like they’re being “sold” to or “pushed” into buying something or making donations. Current best practice recommends that you balance the content of your newsletter so that you include 90% educational or informative material and only 10% promotional.

2. Have a page to subscribe and a clear way to unsubscribe.  Your emails might be forwarded on to other people. Make it easy for them to sign up to get your newsletter and not have to keep relying on friends to send it to them or go out of their way to find out how they can get added to your list.

3. Create interesting email subject lines so people will be intrigued or feel excited to open. Make sure they’re not too vague. People are so bombarded with emails and their time is valuable. Creative subject lines can make all the difference between your newsletter being opened or deleted without being viewed.

4. Pick one primary call-to-action – ie: “If you only click one thing, CLICK THIS.” Too many calls to action can be confusing or a turnoff.

5. Keep plenty of “white space.” People are turned off or feel stressed out when pages are overly cluttered. Having an empty space helps people focus on what they want to read and click on to learn more. Use “read more,” buttons with links to articles and more information on your website or others, but you don’t want people to feel trapped, or if they open your email they’ll have to spend all day reading it.

6. Make sure images have alt text in case they can’t see the image, because if they don’t have images enabled, they will still know what should be there.

7. Test it! Choose the best email marketing tools for you. MailChimp and iContact are two of the most well known, but there are others out there that might be right for you. There might be one that connects directly with your CRM and will add your new subscribers automatically.

8. Have a consistent design and layout.

9. Make sure you’re legally compliant.

8. Analyze and improve: Keep track of your click-through rates, conversion rates, list growth, forward rate, delivery rate, and overall ROI.

A thorough online resource, “How to Create Email Newsletters That Don’t Suck”, by Hubspot, can guide you through the process.

Now the Houston private school is so hooked into social media that most people get their updates daily through a private community Facebook page, SMS updates, Twitter, and Instagram posts. The question has arisen as to whether it makes sense to continue to send out the weekly newsletters. At last vote, the answer was “yes,” but it’s back on the agenda for the next board meeting.

If you liked this post and would like to read more like it, see all our other blogs on GrantWatch, YouHelp, MWBEzone, GrantWriterTeam, and GrantNews. 

About the Author: The author is a staff writer for YouHelp,com