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The 3 Fatal Flaws of a Non-Profit Newsletter!

February 27, 2013

woman typewriter

There is no end to the debate over whether to have, or not have, a newsletter. You’re time strapped, cash strapped and, very often, talent strapped, so how to justify using scarce resources to churn out yet another newsletter with questionable return on investment.

Consider this. A newsletter provides you with an opportunity to communicate with your stakeholders and that’s really important. Your donors, volunteers, board of directors and staff all want to be kept informed about what’s happening at your organization. But, they don’t want every little detail, just the big picture please. Share information about how their donation of time, money, advocacy is making a difference.

Where to start? Your success lies in avoiding these deadly (and common!) newsletter killers:

1. Don’t assume your audience is interested in what you want to tell them. Take the time to find out who your readers are and what interests them. They don’t want to hear about how important you are. Get over yourself, and write for them. How are you providing meaning and value? Ditch the jargon. Forget about how excited you are for your Annual Report–they’re not. Tell them why it matters that they support you and how they can connect to your cause. And keep it short and sweet, you have about a nanosecond to engage them.

2. Be relevant and be interesting or your newsletter will hit the trash before you can recite your 10-second mission statement (or stuffed, unread, into the recycle bin!). Sit down for 15 minutes and create an editorial calendar that will help you identify seasonal themes that you can wrap your content around. Your donors and volunteers have given to you (or hopefully will!), so give back to them. Ask yourself how your content will make your reader feel. How your article will help make their day, their lives, better. Be conversational. Be personal. Be generous.

3. Stop churning out that semi-annual newsletter with recaps of what you did over the past six months. That’s not a newsletter, it’s an archive. And please don’t email it out as a pdf. Yawn. It’s 2013 so yes, you probably need to go digital. If you’ve got more than 25 subscribers, sign up for an email newsletter service provider (ESP) to help you create a nice clean template with consistent spaces where you can drop your delightful and engaging content. If you don’t have the talent to do it in-house, hire someone and get it done.

Finally, don’t forget to include a call to action. You’ve convinced your audience that you matter, now tell them what you want them to do. Donate? Like your facebook page? Attend your awesome event? Volunteer? Don’t make them guess. And then thank them, over and over and over again.

Need a little inspiration? Check out Toronto’s SickKids Hospital’s fantastic e-newsletter.

This post is from a series of presentations I’m currently giving called “Digital for Do-Gooders: Technology to help Non-Profits Do Good Better.” Sponsored and supported by WEtech Alliance, Windsor-Essex’s Technology Accelerator.

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