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A Step-By-Step Guide for Writing a Nonprofit Newsletter

In our experience, a nonprofit newsletter is a great way to engage volunteers and prospective donors. The goal of a nonprofit newsletter is to turn subscribers into volunteers and donors by regularly engaging them with news, updates, and calls-to-action. When done well, nonprofit email newsletters can increase traffic to and regular engagement with your website, garner more support, and publicize your cause.

This step-by-step guide is full of nonprofit newsletter best practices that will help your newsletter stand out from the crowd. We’ll answer all your questions, like: 

Why is a nonprofit newsletter important?

Let’s jump right in. Nonprofit newsletters are a key component of a cohesive communications plan. They also interweave perfectly with your nonprofit social media strategy.  Newsletters can go a long way in helping you build rapport with your supporters and to establish your expertise within your field. With expertise comes trust, which can help improve your volunteer recruitment efforts, nurture donor relationships, and garner new support within your community.

What should a nonprofit newsletter include?

Most organizations follow a general nonprofit newsletter template that consists of content relevant to their cause, headings, links, and calls-to-action. Creating a newsletter for a nonprofit might sound tough, but these suggestions will help you get started.

Relevant Content

Your newsletter content could vary based on your goals.  Do you want to keep your best volunteers engaged? Are you looking to increase donations? Are you hoping to become more visible in your community? Align your newsletter with your organization’s marketing strategy and represent the collective voice of your nonprofit. Rather than trying to appeal to the interests of everyone, find your niche and be intentional with the content you include. Decide on a central theme or message to guide each issue of your newsletter.

Headings

Most of us are short on time, so we skim articles to decide whether to delve in. Headings are a great way to break up large chunks of text so that your readers can glance at sections before they explore further. Divide your newsletter into small chunks of text and include a heading in bold or a color that stands out. The goal is to catch the eye of your readers and invite them to keep reading, so make your headings punchy.

Links

In every newsletter, include links to your website. You want to turn readership into engagement with your organization, so give readers the information they need to access your site and learn more. Furthermore, you can judge the success of your mailing by the number of click throughs your newsletter generates. No links = no engagement data!

Once you start gathering engagement data, you might also ask, “what is a good open rate for nonprofit newsletter?” While it’s important to know standard non-profit industry email engagement rates, it is also important to track your own performance and then take small steps to do better, no matter the number you start with.

Calls-To-Action

Finally, every newsletter should include a call-to-action link or button. A “call to action” asks subscribers to do something. This may be as simple as “Check out what’s new,” “Share this newsletter with a friend,” or even “Donate now.” You should choose a primary call to action for each newsletter. Make sure it’s clear and eye-catching; use bright colors and larger header fonts for your most important items. If you’re asking for a donation, include a button that links directly to your donation page. Completing the action should be made as convenient as possible for your subscriber.

Brainstorm engaging newsletter articles ideas

Wondering how to start a nonprofit newsletter? Use what you already know! Your nonprofit newsletter should include interesting article topics that demonstrate your nonprofit’s expertise; readers will enjoy learning something new with each newsletter. Need some inspiration? Many successful newsletters include relevant findings and news. If you choose to share important news with your readers, make sure it’s timely and on-brand. 

Perhaps your organization provides afterschool art classes to children in your community; write about a study demonstrating the benefits of arts programs on childhood development. This helps your newsletter become educational and credible, while promoting the work you are doing. Set up Google Alerts to keep up to date on news that’s pertinent to you (bonus: you’ll save time on research!).

Create a catchy nonprofit newsletter name

Similar to creative names for volunteer programs, a witty newsletter title will add a touch of fun and marketability. Plus, a title will help you stand out in your readers’ inboxes. Check out this article for some noteworthy newsletter-naming strategies. We recommend picking something with alliteration, a rhyme, or a good pun (who doesn’t like a pun?). Start by brainstorming all of the words you associate with your organization.

Here are a few nonprofit newsletter ideas to get you started:

The Water Cooler

Shelter Tales

Nonprofit Dispatch

Helping Hands Bulletin

Write the best nonprofit newsletter subject lines

According to MailChimp, nothing deters readers more than those hard-selling phrases like “percent off” or “help us” or “REMINDER!” These subject lines feel impersonal because they usually take the form of ads sent to everyone.

Instead, use subject lines that appeal to your unique audience. Include the title of your newsletter in your email subject, followed by a compelling “sneak peek” of what’s included in this month’s edition.

You might even opt to personalize your emails by including the recipient’s first name in the subject line. Did you know that emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened?

Pay attention to subject lines of other emails that really catch your eye and try applying those creative ideas to your nonprofit newsletter subject lines!

How often should nonprofits send emails?

Newsletters must be sent regularly in order to maintain readership. For example, this United Way sends a monthly newsletter, which might be a realistic goal to start with. Publish too often and you may struggle to sustain your efforts; publish less frequently and readers may forget about you. To ensure that your newsletter is published on time each month, create a publication calendar, and plan to send it on the same day each month (maybe the first Tuesday morning of the month!).

If a monthly goal is not achievable for your organization, consider publishing a nonprofit quarterly newsletter. This will allow your staff (or volunteers) ample time to create compelling content, without stretching your organization’s resources too thin. And finally, don’t forget to publish an annual newsletter, at a minimum, to showcase all of the great things you’ve done in the community throughout the year!

The best nonprofit newsletter examples 

Now that you know what to include in your nonprofit newsletter, let’s take a look at how other organizations have successfully designed their correspondence. Here’s our roundup of the best nonprofit newsletter examples. We hope you can use these examples to inspire a newsletter that is uniquely you!

Charity: Water | You Did It!

ASPCA | Vote for the Purrrrfect Kitten Name!

UNICEF| A time for hope

To Write Love on Her Arms  

Writing newsletters each month can seem like a daunting task, but this is a valuable opportunity to share your organization’s knowledge and impact. Chances are, supporters will listen to what you have to say. As part of your nonprofit newsletter strategy, take the time to consider your audience and curate your content accordingly.

Your subscribers will feel like the newsletter was created just for them. They may even become your most engaged volunteers!

Additional Resources

6 Email Marketing Volunteer Engagement Tips (+ Tactics!)

Marketing Your Volunteer Opportunities: How to Convert Prospects Into Engaged Volunteers [Plus Free Email Templates]

4 Ways a Nonprofit CRM Can Improve Volunteer Relations

How to Choose a Volunteer Management Software

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