By Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
Newsletters sent to your organization’s email list—also known as e-newsletters or electronic, digital or email newsletters—hold incredible value. So many nonprofits are not using this marketing channel to the fullest potential, but newsletters are a key resource and a crucial component of a balanced and successful communication strategy.
How effective are newsletters, and how do they help nonprofits?
According to a recent survey, 69 percent of nonprofits worldwide regularly send an email newsletter. Nonprofits have the second best industry open rate, with an average open rate of 25.2 percent and click-through rate (how many subscribers visit your website and ultimately convert) of 2.6 percent. Newsletters are an effective way to reach people—and this is a space of opportunity for those organizations who want to step up their email game.
From our experience, newsletters are often the highest-producing tactic in terms of sales conversion. In one nonprofit survey, when asked about their experience with email fundraising campaigns, 38% of organizations raised the amount of money they expected and 24% raised slightly MORE than they expected. Social media is great for creating awareness and staying in front of an audience, but if you want people to take action, then email should be your focus.
For our nonprofit clients, the top goals for their newsletters often include recruiting donors, sharing their good work, and serving their population. Newsletters also have the potential to grow your audience because current readers are likely to spread the word about the work your organization is doing. Your message could extend to reach more people you can help or enable you to find talented new hires.
That’s what’s amazing about newsletters: Your audience doesn’t have to go searching for information. They’ve signed up to receive it and it’s coming to them, reaching them where they already are—their inbox.
Are you capturing emails? Who is your audience?
Some organizations capture contacts but don’t think about how to grow that list or speak to different audiences. Others are not proactively capturing data at all. No matter where your organization stands, an email list is where newsletters start. A simple email “subscribe” pop-up on your website can be effective in building a list.
Who are the people on your list? Segmenting the list into different audiences—such as members, prospective members, donors, and supporters—can be helpful if you have different messages to share. This ensures each person is receiving information that is relevant and, therefore, more likely to resonate. Remember, these people already have an interest or affinity for your organization and are passionate about your mission. They want to hear from you, so go ahead and take this opportunity to communicate with them!
What content do you share? How frequently?
Many times, organizations are already creating content and only need to make small adaptations to leverage it in a bigger way. At Big Buzz Idea Group, we regard newsletters as a venue for storytelling; it is a space where you can position your organization as an authoritative expert, talk about the lives touched and the impact you’re making, as well as promote the resources and programs you offer. A newsletter is a delivery channel that consolidates your content and presents it as one organized package. So much more efficient and compelling!
Frequency will depend on your content and your audience. You may want to speak to different groups at different times of the month or share more timely announcements when needed along with pushing out a monthly update. A newsletter can include specific messages to grow event attendance or recruit new board members. Or it can more generally share education or articles that your audience would find useful or interesting.
The biggest “miss”, we believe, is not using newsletters intentionally or with consistency. The information you share, the format and branding you use, and the frequency at which you send emails should be consistent. That way, you build trust and familiarity—the keys to a great relationship.
What types of data should be tracked?
Because an e-newsletter is digital, you can receive all kinds of valuable data that measure impact and help to refine your messaging. You can track the growth of your audience, sign-ups versus unsubscribes, open and click-through rates, and so much more. This information allows you to see what content is receiving the most interest and what’s most effective in compelling people to take action. For example, if you’ve set up a giving campaign—a series of emails with the goal of receiving donations—you can see if the piece is successful in generating fundraising.
These days, when the marketing world feels upside-down and separated and siloed, newsletters are a valuable, cost-effective way to reach your audience. This is an opportunity to build and deepen your relationship with donors, members, and supporters. We are always excited to see how our clients tap into the power of newsletters to connect with their audience and further their mission.
It’s time to start sharing.