When you run a nonprofit organization, keeping your community engaged in what you’re doing is a critical part of success. Securing nonprofit funding hinges, in part, on your ability to communicate with businesses and people about the value your organization brings to the community. Community engagement efforts also help you locate the people who need your services most.
A nonprofit newsletter offers an easy way to communicate with the people in your network regularly. As you continue using your charity newsletter to nurture your leads, you should notice your community outreach key performance indicators skyrocketing.
Here’s what you need to know about establishing an email newsletter for a nonprofit, as well as 11 great ideas for engaging newsletter content you can create.
Benefits of having a nonprofit newsletter
With more than 1.5 million tax-exempt nonprofits just in the United States, it can be challenging for a nonprofit to stand out amid the large selection of charitable organizations. This makes it tough to prove why your nonprofit deserves the attention of donors in their communities.
A nonprofit newsletter reminds the members of your community about the service you provide and the reasons they should support your organization. In fact, 46% of nonprofit supporters say that it’s actively helpful to hear from nonprofits.
A nonprofit newsletter is also a form of email marketing, with a return on investment of $36 for every $1 spent.
How to create email newsletters for nonprofits
You don’t have to spend hours creating your nonprofit newsletter. Using email newsletter templates can take the stress out of designing a professional, engaging newsletter. Thanks to drag-and-drop technology, you could try designing your own email newsletter, even if you don’t have any coding experience.
The key is to ensure your newsletter is easy to scan so that readers can easily see the main points and figure out if they want to read further. In a newsletter, walls of text are your enemy. Images, headers, and graphics can all break the text up and make the newsletter easier on the eyes.
Whether you decide to use a pre-existing template or make your own, ensure that your email content is mobile-friendly. This is especially critical for engaging younger donors, many of whom spend significantly more time on their phones and tablets than on desktops.
11 nonprofit newsletter ideas to engage your readers
Nonprofit newsletter ideas can come from a variety of places. Stay engaged with your social media accounts and pay attention to the questions people are asking, the posts gaining traction, and your competitors’ activity. This will help you generate new ideas for newsletter content specific to your niche.
But regardless of what nonprofit sector you’re in, some newsletter ideas can drive results again and again. If you’re stuck on ideas for your upcoming email, turn to these 11 nonprofit newsletter ideas to get your wheels spinning and create a meaningful newsletter that your readers will care about.
1. Beneficiary story
According to Forbes, storytelling should be a key aspect of marketing because it deepens the audience’s connection with the brand. Nonprofit organizations are uniquely positioned to tell meaningful stories because of the genuine good they provide to the community.
Your beneficiaries — the people who have benefited from your organization over the years — are powerful social proof that your nonprofit helps people. You can make the most of this by asking your beneficiaries for permission to share their stories.
Beneficiary stories help readers put a face to your organization’s work. They humanize the data, which can sometimes be dull and difficult to absorb.
2. Donor story
Donors can be another vital source for powerful, moving stories that will engage your readers. After all, who could explain why to give your organization money better than the people who have already contributed?
Your donors have a reason for investing in your organization. Hearing these reasons may motivate other members of your community to invest as well, or it may help them understand your organization’s value in a new light.
One way to collect more stories is to include a call to action when sharing stories with your community. Include something like, “If you have a donor story of your own to share, please email us” in the footer of your donor stories. Sometimes, just asking the community for these stories leads to amazing results.
3. Milestone update
Anytime your organization hits a new milestone, you should share your excitement with the community. Milestone updates show people that your group has forward momentum and you’re not just stagnating or plodding along.
Timelines can be a powerful graphic for milestone updates, helping readers visualize the journey your organization has made so far.
Remember that there are different kinds of milestones. Being featured by a big-name news outlet is a milestone for many organizations. Creating a publication is another example of a milestone. The most important role of these types of email newsletters is to show off something you’re proud of. This helps position your organization as up-and-coming in the industry. It shows that you’re doing real work and making real strides.
4. Content newsletter
Content newsletters are often the bread and butter of email marketing because they’re the easiest way to provide clear value to your customers.
Your content should focus on providing value your readers will engage with. The goal of content newsletters isn’t to directly talk about your organization but to communicate information within your industry that’s helpful to your readers.
For example, suppose you run a nonprofit history museum. In that case, content newsletters might include interesting historical events that people may not know about, investigations of local lore, or “fact or fiction?” quizzes about commonly misunderstood parts of history.
An organization specializing in providing after-school activities to underprivileged students might use these content-heavy newsletters to talk about landing scholarships as a first-generation college student or preparing to interview for first jobs. The organization could just as easily reach out to potential donors with information about why certain students may need your services, or you could talk about some of the activities you’ve set up recently.
5. Upcoming events
Promoting upcoming events in your newsletter gives everyone on your email list an opportunity to attend. Be sure to include the date of the event, location, how to participate, and how to get more information.
If your event requires participants to register, link to your registration form directly. This not only creates a clear call to action but also makes it easy for readers to follow through on it.
When people first hear about your organization, what questions do they ask?
Frequently asked questions provide great topics to address in emails. You can even have a series of nonprofit newsletters addressing each of the most common questions about your organization, one at a time.
After using your FAQs to boost your email newsletters, you can repurpose these newsletters into a welcome series for new subscribers, creating a clear introduction to your organization, what you do, how you benefit the community, and how people can help.
7. Challenges for taking action
Sometimes, people in your community want to help but don’t have a clear direction for taking action. Your nonprofit newsletter is a great way to communicate tangible ways that people can help your cause.
Turning these activities into a challenge can make them even more engaging for readers. Consider the success of the ice bucket challenge from 2014 and how that helped in the fight against ALS.
The key to designing a good challenge for your community is to make it something that almost everyone can do, with no barrier for entry, and ensure that it directly impacts your cause. For example, the ice bucket challenge wasn’t just about dumping ice on your head — people were encouraged to spread a message of awareness on social media as they participated and to donate if they were able.
But challenges don’t only have to be social media-based. If your organization specializes in eco-friendly living, for example, you might challenge people to turn off the lights in their houses or to unplug appliances that they aren’t using. The important thing is to have one clear challenge and to highlight how that challenge impacts your cause.
8. Relevant news articles
Current events can provide a great opportunity to talk about your cause and how it impacts the greater community or the world.
When something happens in your field that hits the news, take a moment to highlight it in your newsletter. Be sure to link directly to a reputable news source, and summarize the content for your readers.
The key is to showcase how the news event impacts your organization. Whether the situation helps your organization or hurts it, you should explain the event’s impact to your community in your own words.
9. Community highlights
One goal of nonprofit organizations is to integrate into the greater community. To this end, some of your newsletters can be dedicated to highlighting special events coming up in the community. Whether there’s a festival coming to town, a concert worth seeing, or an upcoming graduation ceremony, when you highlight your community, you show that you’re aware of the space that you’re in and that you consider your entire community to be equally important.
Community highlights can be especially powerful when you participate in events that don’t directly connect to your nonprofit. Pictures of your team members attending a local 5K or playing games at the fair downtown humanize you and help readers appreciate your role in the community at large.
10. Spread the message
Your nonprofit newsletter recipients are in a unique position to raise awareness for your cause. By subscribing to your newsletter, your readers have shown that they have at least some interest in what you do. When you nurture those leads and gain their trust, you can ask your readers to share the information.
Asking readers to spread the message about your organization works best if you have something clear and concise for them to say.
You can even offer perks for people willing to share information about your organization on social media. For example, you could put everyone who spreads the message into a drawing and send the winners some free merch from your organization. Or you could put on a special event for everyone willing to share your message with their family and friends.
11. Call for volunteers
One final idea for an engaging nonprofit newsletter is to ask for volunteers. Although you should limit how often you use this idea, a genuine call for volunteers as you head toward the apex of an event or busy season can bolster engagement and give interested readers a sense of purpose.
A call for volunteers works especially well if you have a genuine need for help and can communicate that need effectively. For example, if you’ve recently had more beneficiaries than usual, include that information in your call for volunteers. This gives your message a sense of urgency.
It’s also important to make it easy for people to follow through on your call for volunteers. Let your readers know what they’d be doing, what the necessary time commitment for volunteering is, and who to get in touch with if they’re interested in helping your organization. Providing this information upfront takes the uncertainty out of the volunteering process and ensures that the people who reach out are actually in a good position to help.
Tips for creating engaging newsletters for nonprofits
The goal of your newsletter is to generate engagement. The best way to do that is to send relevant information regularly. When you’re consistent, your readers will recognize you, which reduces the chance of your email ending up in the trash or spam folder. Here are some tips for creating engaging nonprofit newsletters that people want to read.
Look at other newsletters
A great way to get better at anything is to learn from what other people are doing. Look closely at emails in your inbox that catch your eye, especially the mailings you receive from businesses and other nonprofits.
As you read through these emails every day, take note of things you like and don’t like. These notes can be on anything in the newsletter, from subject lines to the actual content.
As you note which subject lines make you want to open emails and which calls to action make you want to engage further with an organization, you can start to emulate those successes in your mailings.
Craft an engaging subject line
The subject line of your email is the first thing your readers see. This makes it a strong determinant of whether people open your newsletter or not. So you should take a lot of care when crafting your subject line. Ensure that it gives readers a reason to open the email and read further.
Questions can be a great engagement tool in subject lines. When you ask a question, you naturally pique the interest of readers. Just be sure, if you use this tactic, that the question you ask is specific and interesting.
Use multimedia engagement
Images help break up walls of text, making newsletters easier for your readers to scan. Keep in mind that more than half of your readers will be opening your nonprofit newsletter from a mobile device. Using images to tell part of your story can help keep mobile readers engaged with your content.
Video content is another great way to break up text and create a multimedia experience for your readers. Teams that use videos in their emails notice a 16% increase in open rates and a 26% increase in replies to their emails. This means that just by including videos in some of your emails, you can drive newsletter engagement through the roof.
Have a single focus per newsletter
Although some newsletters choose to fill each email with several pieces of content, from news articles to blog posts to puzzles, having a single focus for each mailing is easier on your readers. When there are numerous things to look at, your readers may struggle to decide what’s important. When you communicate a single message, the intent of your mailing is clear.
Focused newsletters also tend to be shorter and easier to scan. This means that readers can get your message even if they have a limited amount of time to look through their emails.
Provide value to your readers
If your nonprofit newsletter continually asks for money and volunteers without doing much else, you can expect readers to unsubscribe. Your readers’ time is valuable to them. While the occasional call for volunteers or donations is OK, those emails only work if you’ve already nurtured a relationship with your readers.
Frequently using your email to provide valuable content is a good way to ensure you offer value to your readers. In fact, 87% of marketers use email marketing to promote their content.
Create a clear call to action
Whenever you release a newsletter, you should have a clear goal for your readers. Whether you’re asking people to read your blog for more information, sign up for an event, or post on social media, make your call to action clear. Your readers can’t read your mind. If you want them to do something specific, you must ask for it.
Research shows that emails with a single call to action have 371% more clicks than emails with no call to action or multiple calls to action.
Calls to action also benefit your readers. When they see the call to action, they know that the newsletter they just read had a point. This helps generate the feeling that your message was valuable to them and impacted their lives.
Supercharge your marketing with engaging nonprofit newsletters
The high return on investment on email marketing shows the value of using nonprofit newsletters as a price-effective way to boost community engagement. The key is to design newsletters with a clear purpose so that, when people finish reading, they feel like they received value for their time.
Get started today by paying attention to the emails that come into your inbox. Take notes on newsletters that engaged you — and those that didn’t. Your notes will help you understand how newsletters can be engaging, which will help you supercharge your email marketing when you start sending out newsletters for your nonprofit.