Today’s post on e-newsletters is from Radha Marcum, fellow Boulderite and content marketing guru who works with mission-driven organizations and businesses, including local and national nonprofits, such as Growing Gardens, The Center for Resource Conservation, and The Wilderness Society.
In the work I do to help mission-driven companies and nonprofits tell better stories and grow their communities, e-newsletter strategy is often overlooked. Shouldn’t we focus on growing our social media presence, instead? they ask. The answer is no. Why? In a nutshell, e-newsletter subscribers are more engaged with your organization than folks who like your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter. Subscribers are more likely to attend your events, share your content, and make donations.
According to a 2014 Content Marketing Institute report, 84 percent of nonprofits use e-newsletters as a primary marketing tool . However, in my experience, only a small percentage of organizations use e-newsletters effectively to build brand awareness, show thought leadership, and cultivate new donors. So, if your organization is within that 84 percent, bravo! But don’t stop there. Fine-tune your strategy with these tips.
1. Inspire, inform, inspire, inform … then ask.
Does your organization use its e-newsletter primarily for event promotion and fundraising? If so, you are missing a huge opportunity to make an emotional connection with your supporters. Use your e-newsletter to inspire and inform your community by sharing personal stories of those who benefit from your org, providing thought leadership and education (not just about the org itself, but illuminating key issues in the community), and revealing the behind-the-scenes hard work and dedicated people of your organization.
Follow the 4:1 rule – 4 parts inspiration to 1 part promotion.
2. Adopt a friendly tone.
Tone falls along the spectrum of dry and impersonal (reporting) to overly friendly (cheerleading). Many nonprofits that I work with err on the side of dry because they want to be taken seriously. A friendly tone will not hurt your organization’s credibility! Instead, it enhances rapport—and nothing is more valuable than rapport during fundraising. So strike a balance. Don’t hide behind statistics and information.
3. Design & Flow: Keep. It. Simple.
Many organizations make the mistake of cramming everything possible into one e-newsletter, resulting in awkward design and overflowing text that strains the eyes and scatters readers’ focus. First, start with a clean, uncluttered e-newsletter template.
4. Optimize hot spots.
Do your e-newsletter open rates suffer because of boring subject lines? Does the email have poor placement of “hooks,” such as an important call to action buried at the very bottom? Optimize these four areas, particularly, to build engagement.
5. Commit to consistency.
It’s surprising how many organizations seem to send e-newsletters whenever they get around to it or have an ask to make. With busy schedules and marketing time stretched thin, I know it can be difficult to commit to regularity. But without it, your org will lose supporters’ attention—and trust. Don’t be like the neighbor who shows up randomly, only when he wants to chat or needs something. Commit to publishing something of value to your audience on the same week(s) of the month, same day of the week.
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