What NOT To Do On Your Nonprofit’s Next Email Newsletter


Image courtesy of Scorephoenix.org
Image courtesy of Scorephoenix.org

If your nonprofit has not edited its email newsletter in the last 6 months, it’s probably time.

Your newsletter should be short, to the point, and have the capacity to quickly communicate an important message or update to the reader. If your newsletter is cluttered, covering an array of topics, and is not responsive, then you need to take a look at this list, then reevaluate.

Here are 10 things your nonprofit should NOT do on its next email newsletter.

    • Bland subject lines

      In journalism, the first sentence or two is called the hook. Your subject line is the hook for your newsletter. It is your first chance to draw in a reader’s attention and get them interested in your your email;s content. So why is your subject line still “July 2014 Newsletter”?

      Get specific, exciting, and jazz the subject line up with specifics about the content that’s sitting in their inbox, that’s just a click away. Maybe it is your call-to-action, or maybe it’s a teaser to what’s inside. Whatever you land on, make sure it is compelling, and enticing. Ask yourself and those around you “would you click on this email?” Chances are pretty good if you say no, and those around you say no, chances are good you need to rethink your subject line.

    • Covering multiple topics

      If your nonprofit offers multiple programs and and services that do not naturally fit together, information on the different topics should not be included. Your email newsletter should be pointed, direct, and not a conglomeration of multiple topics. What readers want is a clearly defined topic, and the newsletter’s content to communicate that information.

      Avoid veering off-course and muddying up your newsletter’s main goal. Define that message, and communicate that one message.

    • Multiple goals

      In addition to your message, your newsletter probably has a specific goal it is aiming to accomplish. Whether it is to raise awareness, drive donation, or spur signups to an upcoming program, your newsletter is likely attempting to accomplish one of these things. If you’re finding your newsletter is hitting on more than one of these points, your messaging is not as effective as it could be if it was focusing on just one.

    • Multiple audiences

      This is where effective segmentation your constituents comes into play. By knowing exactly what has resonated with your newsletter recipients, and their donation habits, you can target your audience and send newsletters only to audiences you know the message will resonate with.

    • Unnecessary links and calls-to-action

      Newsletters are by their very nature tend to be cluttered with each piece of information and link crowding on top of one another. Reducing the number of links, calls-to- action, and piece of information is imperative. Because you have defined your topic, goal, and audience already thanks to numbers 2, 3, and 4, having one or two links that will accomplish that mission for that targeted audience is key.

    • Unneeded self promotion

      The general rule of thumb is that your newsletters should be 90% informational, and 10% promotional. Take a look at your last few newsletters and decide if you’re overstepping that 10% promotional limit. If so, think about scaling back the calls-to-action, and either filling that space with useful information, or leaving it blank to let the message breathe.

    • Newsless newsletter content

      Re-read your last few newsletters. If any of the content in them seems unnecessary, make sure similar content in the future is either replaced, or taken out completely. Remember, your newsletter should be pointed, and accomplish an objective within just a few seconds. If it is too convoluted your recipients will not interact with your content as you intended.

    • Stock images

      Nothing says “I took the easy way out” like using stock images in a newsletter. Your newsletter is your most intimate communication channel with your constituents. Show them how much they’re valued by using images taken of your team, from around the office, or from your last event. It personalized the message and shows you’re willing to take that extra step.

    • Too serious of a tone

      Show off your creative flair, get funny, get happy, and be different. Come up with some snappy titles and headlines that will attract clicks. Try using funny images or memes. Whatever is pertinent to the message and goal of the newsletter, and will help you accomplish your goal. It’s all fair game.

    • Too long

      While newsletters are typically longer than most email communications, there is a cut off. Read your last few and time yourself. See how long it take for you to ready the entire thing from subject line to the last period. If it takes you longer than 2 minutes or so, it’s probably too long.

      Make sure that within just a few seconds your newsletter has the potential to accomplish its mission. Whether it is a donation or a signup, the link to that page must be prominently placed and easy for a viewer to interact with.


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