Best practices for a non-profit newsletter

Newsletters can be a great way to keep your audience engaged while making sure they’re fully informed on everything to do with your non-profit. To make sure you effectively utilize your newsletter, make sure that you:

  1. Maintain a regular schedule
  2. Make sure content is relevant
  3. Make the formatting and design engaging

Keep a consistent schedule

The key for scheduling your newsletter is consistency. Keeping a consistent schedule keeps donors and other people interested in your non-profit looking forward to receiving the newsletter and allows them to expect when it is coming. When you have regular send out days, it creates a sense of professionalism for your newsletter, and by not sending it too often it allows you to include important information and avoid filler.

Having a content calendar can help you stay on schedule — it allows you to plan weeks or months in advance and ensure the newsletter syncs with the rest of your marketing strategy. A content calendar can be as simple as a document or spreadsheet where you write down your plan, or you can make it more in depth by using online tools. At Vireo, we like to use Notion for our content calendars because it allows us to create the content and make a schedule within the same database.

Content that converts

When it comes to content, you want to make sure to include information from beneficiaries of the non-profit in the newsletter. This includes how the non-profit has helped them, as well as who they are and their stories. This helps create a sense of need and allows donors to visualize what their money is supporting.

Other content could include:

  • Funding milestones to show that donations are being put to use. 
  • Upcoming events you’d like your readers to attend or participate in.
  • News about your organization, like new hires or updates from the office. 
  • Frequently asked questions.

The 3-1 cultivation ask rule (also known as the “Jab, jab, jab, right hook” a la Gary Vaynerchuk) is also important to keep in mind. You don’t want to come off as needy, so be sure to have three general interest topics for every donation request. This can be any of the content above, or something entirely different! Just make sure to space out your asks.

Notably, the content in the newsletter itself should be relatively short, with links to longer pieces. Digital Marketer’s World (linked below) and Constant Contact recommends no more than 20 lines of text or about 200 words.

Before they get to any of this content though, you’ll need to get them to click on it in their inbox. The subject line of the email should be enticing and include a clear call to action in it.  

Make an engaging design

While including all of this content is a good idea, it is also best to keep it simple and keep users engaged, as on average people only read about 20% of text on screen. Using white space in the newsletter is also key to fighting reading fatigue, and it also allows the content to breathe. 

Evocative images are also a necessity to include, as they catch the reader’s eye and provide a break from blocks of text. But it is also important to know your newsletters identity and to be consistent with it. There are three types of newsletters:

  • Image heavy: mostly images, easier to digest but may struggle to get your point across
  • Text-based: Better for getting information out there but can be tiresome to read
  • Magazine like: Best of both worlds, allows text to get the newsletters point across, without being boring or hard to read.

Colour choice should also be kept in mind. While colours can catch the reader’s eye, too many colours or a non-matching colour palette can make the newsletter seem unprofessional or tacky. You should also remember to match the newsletters colour palette to your company branding. Whether it be using the same colours as your company, or complimenting ones.

Finally, make sure the newsletter is mobile friendly, as many people view their emails on their phone. If the newsletter formatting doesn’t work for mobile devices, it can make the newsletter less enjoyable to read and also make the newsletter look unprofessional.

Consistency is key

In summary, the key to having an effective newsletter is consistency. Consistency with your schedule to keep readers looking forward, and consistency with the design of the newsletter to keep it tied to your brand. And don’t forget that the whole point of the newsletter is to provide engaging content that prompts the reader to interact with your organization!