Non-profits: Getting the Word Out with Email Marketing

non-profits1As a non-profit, your newsletter is valuable to your readers because your voice is that of a community leader. Your email readers want to know your opinion on the issues that are important to your cause. With that built-in audience, maximize your newsletter’s potential by making your newsletters accessible and interesting, and increase your open and click-through rates.

Finding your readership

It may be tempting to buy an email list — insta-readers! But resist. These days, it’s illegal for a company to email anyone unless you’ve had a prior relationship with them, or they’ve opted into your list.

Instead, collect email addresses in person, on your website, and social media. At events and conferences, train staff to emphasize the newsletters’ benefit to the reader: “If you’re interested in our work, sign up for the newsletter to hear updates.” Emphasize that email is cheaper and greener than paper mail.

Keep your list healthy and active by weeding it for non-active readers. Check your email marketing software’s analytics and remove people who haven’t opened anything in 6 months to a year. It’s better to lose a dead address than have someone mark you for spam.

Converting from Snail Mail

Technically, you can start emailing anyone on your snail mail list or anyone who has ever purchased something from you. But it’s considered rude to sign someone up for a mailing list without their knowledge, and many readers will hit that spam button rather than open your email to find the unsubscribe link.

Instead, isolate those imported contacts to a special, segmented portion of your database, and start a recruitment campaign: Email them to say that you’ve started a new, greener emailing list, would they like to join? Make this a stellar, branded email that looks just as good as your regular emails. Provide a link to find out more. Let them subscribe with a webform, or by simply hitting ‘Reply.’

How to Write an Interesting Multi-Topic Email

Many non-profits send out news roundups or end of year updates. Many of these emails are deleted unread. The problem with email is that it’s meant to be short, skimmed, single-topic, and read quickly. However, as a non-profit, you probably have a lot to say.

Here’re some best practices to get your multi-topic emails read.

  • Do you need to write a long email? If you’re only emailing once a month, or bi-annually, consider saying less more frequently. Readers often unsubscribe when they forget about you due to inactivity. Or, split up your email lists and let readers subscribe to just the calendar of events list, or just the news and updates list. Your readers from out of town probably don’t want to know about local events, just your good works.
  • Use a table of contents so readers can jump to the topics that interest them.
  • Include a link to the web version for readers who prefer not to read the newsletter in email.
  • Don’t write email like paper newsletters. Cut out the introductions and long commentaries. Keep text blocks short, 100-150 words.
  • Longer newsletters such as year-end retrospectives should be shorter than their print versions, 300 words at most.
  • Post frequent updates on social media, rather than email.
  • Use a two-column format with HTML nested tables, and use it consistently to train readers to look for the features they are most interested in.
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