Your 10 Point Checklist For Nonprofit Newsletter Writing

Image courtesy ofJames Madison University
Image courtesy of James Madison University

Writing, and sending, your nonprofit’s email newsletter takes creativity, precision strategy, and even a little finesse.

Not only that, but once its been sent, your newsletter is out of your control. There's no re-do. Proof reading, avoiding spam triggers, ensuring it’s mobile optimized, creating alluring subject lines are all imperative to the success of the newsletter and what the content inside is promoting.

If your palms get sweaty every time your cursor is hovering over the “send” button, keep on reading. Because if you, or someone in your nonprofit is sending out weekly or monthly newsletters, make sure whoever is doing the heavy lifting has a copy of this list! It might just save a headache or two down the road.

  1. Choose a goal

    Clearly define a goal before sitting down to write. This is imperative. A document of this importance should not be started until this has been accomplished.

    Are you just looking to raise awareness? Are you reaching out for donations? To drive traffic to your website? Generate interest in an upcoming event? or are you looking for volunteers?

    Start with the newsletter’s purpose and let ideas come from there. Without an end goal in mind, nothing can be accomplished.

  2. Gathering your content

    Generally speaking, the way you gather your content will vary depending on what your goals are for the newsletter.

    Active gathering is when you search for content to solve a particular problem. Passive content gathering is when you are working throughout the week, aggregating links, content and information as you unintentionally stumble over it.

    Both strategies can be used effectively depending on what the goal and content of your newsletter is. But either way, having all of the information in front of you necessary to write content that will resonate with your readers.

  3. Design your template

    By having the goal of your newsletter in mind, and all of your content in hand, you are ready to start designing your newsletter’s template.

    In a previous post we discuss the importance of making sure your nonprofit’s emails are optimized for the mobile user. Keeping this in mind that 51% of all emails were opened on mobile devices in 2013 while designing your newsletter template will increase interaction rates, open rates and click through rates.

  4. Add in content

    Once your template is ready, information is gathered, and your goal has been set, it is finally time to fill that template up with engaging content. This is arguably the most important step because this is what that huge list of email addresses will be receiving.

    If there are flaws in grammar, typos, or anything that might suggest unprofessional, your hard work could end up in the trash quicker than you can blink.

  5. Personalize

    Emails that resonate most with recipients are ones that are sent with them in mind. Email recipients want to feel like an email was written specifically for them.

    Get a good sense of who your email is being sent to, then design your strategy around catering to what will resonate with that specific population.

  6. Subject line and sender’s name

    By choosing a real person as the sender’s name, analytic suggest that the number of opens and click through rates have the potential to increase dramatically. No matter what name you choose, ensure that it is recognizable and affiliated with your nonprofit so recipients are not befuddled by it upon its arrival to their inbox.

    Do not be wordy here. We’re not kidding. Your subject line should be brief, to the point, and entice an immediate interaction. It’s also not a bad idea to start off with a “Hey!” or another instant attention grabber with an exclamation point to shock a reader to attention.

    Think about the emails that you always open, or always delete. Learn from your own experiences and incorporate them into your own practices.

  7. Quality assured

    Check, check and check again. Make sure your content is completely devoid of typos, misspelled words and grammatical errors. Send your newsletter to someone who reads it on their laptop, and to another one who is going to read it on their smart phone. Have them give the document a 'once over'. Make the necessary changes your QA professionals point out, and move on to the next step.

  8. Compliance, compliance, compliance

    CAN-SPAM requires your email newsletter to have a footer containing your address and an unsubscribe option. If not, the email is actually illegal. Sending an email that’s illegal is, of course, something you should avoid at all costs.

    You can learn more about CAN-SPAM here.

  9. Test the email on different browsers and devices

    An email opened in Gmail and Chrome has the potential to look completely different in Outlook. Additionally, your newsletter could appear perfectly on a computer screen, but be unintelligible on a smart phone. Test your newsletter on all the different devices and email options before sending to ensure that it resonates with as many people as possible.

  10. Send!

    You’ve done all the work, double checked the grammar, at least three people have quality assured the document, and now is the time to click that daunting send button. Send it off an reap the rewards of all your due diligence!

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