Newsletters have become the primary tool for nonprofits to keep donors informed about how their contributions are being spent and why the checks should keep coming.
In MarketingSherpa's report on Top 10 Email Newsletter Mistakes, publisher Anne Holland makes the case that newsletters must remain kept fresh to be effective. "Your official newsletter has to be taken up, shaken upside down, tested, and then revamped every year or so," she wrote.
She also advises being careful. "I believe newsletter revamps are a lot like (Web) site revamps, where enormous changes ... can be dangerous," she wrote, especially in the short term. To minimize the disruptions, she ticks off several common mistakes to avoid, including:
- Don't assume you have permission to put someone on the mailing list.
- Don't write a "one size fits all" newsletter; readers may delete it quickly. Canvas readers to learn their interests, then tailor a newsletter accordingly.
- Don't send a plain acknowledgement email for a subscription. Dress it up in the text or with graphics or both.
- Don't set a publishing schedule arbitrarily. Research when readers will most likely read it.
- Don't write an institutional newsletter. Personalize it where possible without getting too cute.
- Don't make it one way. Include ways for readers to reply.
- Don't write too long. Include graphics or links to audio and video.
- Don't assume your email will get through filters.
- Don't use a typeface too small to read.
- Don't rely solely on email. Paper, for example, still has a place.