5 tips to help boost your charity newsletter

Running a newsletter has been a vital tool for charities almost since the dawn of the internet – but is your organisation making the most of their mail-out? Your newsletter subscribers are by definition some of the people who are most interested in what your charity is up to. A few simple tweaks can allow you to properly engage with an audience who are already wanting to hear what you’ve got to say – as well as making sure that you’re making the best use of your own time. Below, you’ll find 5 easy, actionable tips to tick off to ensure your newsletter is doing all it can to capitalise on the advantages of a regular newsletter.

Use a proper mail-out client

Although this may seem obvious to most people, the fact remains that an alarming number of people aren’t using the best platform to send out their newsletter. While there are a great number of different ways to get your mail-out delivered, the difference in quality between the very best in the industry and even the average ones can be startling.

Of all the providers out there, MailChimp is widely perceived to be the market leader for a variety of different reasons. Over the years, they have been among the first to allow users to track exactly who has opened their mail, and what pieces of content they have interacted with and clicked-through on. These kind of analytics can be absolutely vital in finetuning your mailer going forward.

Mailchimp also offers a wide range of themes and designs for free, as well as keeping an archive of all your past newsletters. You may need to upgrade to get some of the extra advantages – and it is important to note that there may be other providers that better suit your needs.

Newsletter providers

  • MailChimp.com
    Industry leader, includes analytics and themes, needs time and dedication
  • Mailpoet.com
    Drags content from your site, easy to maintain, only available on WordPress sites
  • CampaignMonitor.com
    Used by Facebook, Apple, eBay and more – but has no free version

Keep your title short and to the point

Your title is the first – and, in many cases, the only – thing that your subscribers see. If they’re not instantly engaged, or don’t immediately engage with what it is that you’re talking about in this particular edition, then the likelihood is that they simply won’t click through to read the entire newsletter.

Only the most dedicated of your subscribers are going to read every single thing that lands in their mailbox from you – so making sure that the most important things that you’re covering in each issue are included in the heading. Don’t worry too much about it making sense coherently – all you need is essentially bullet points, breaking down what you’ve got in your newsletter.

By using a vertical bar (which looks like this |), you can fit in all your points easily. For example, a title could be something as simple as “Donations needed for new appeal | Our latest work | Get involved with our charity & more…” – although obviously, you’d want to give details on each, rather than being as vague as we have been here.

Rules for your newsletter title

  • Get your most important point within the first 35 characters – most mail clients cut anything past that point off in their snippet
  • Make the title inciting, enticing people to click through and read the whole thing
  • Try be as succinct as possible

Have your most important content at the top

Similar to the title, having your most important information at the top of an e-mail can make a huge different. E-mail clients give a small snippet of the first part of a mail, so getting the information you want to be seen most inside of that can make a huge difference to the amount of click-throughs and engagement you get from your mailer (some newsletter clients even allow you to customise this snippet)

Even for those that do click through, the chances are that people will only really view the first one or two things that are in your newsletter – and at worst, they’ll only skim read these before clicking back to view the rest of their mail. If you can engage them immediately with the most important information from your organisation, it will massively increase your chances of reaching whatever aims your have for your mail-out.

It is also important to note that you shouldn’t put too much information about each piece of news in the e-mail – if something needs a lot of further context or writing, simply link through to a page on your site where they can get the full story. As mentioned before, most people will simply skim through – and if they’re not engaged with the first piece of content, you want to try and hook them in with the second straight away.

How to structure your newsletter content

  • Have your most important news at the very top
  • Keep things brief – three paragraphs on each bit of news at most, with a link that provides more information if needed
  • Aim for between 3 and 6 pieces of news per mail-out, so things aren’t too sparse or too crowded.

Don’t get hung up on the design – it is the message that matters

Unless you’re an organisation that prides itself on graphic design, or an organisation with the resources to pour into creating a beautiful template for each of your newsletters, don’t fret too much about how your mail-out looks. Find a template that is minimal, tasteful and don’t require too many changes when you want to send out a new one.

The reason that people have signed up to get e-mail from you is because of the work that you do and their interest in it – shelling out on a fancy design isn’t going to make them more interested in that, and can actually end up being superfluous to your message. By keeping things simple, you allow for your message to do the talking, rather than some template that a thousand other companies are likely using.

Of course, having images can be important – but again, be sparing with them. Going too heavy on them can increase the bounce-rate of your e-mail and mean that less people get the chance to read your newsletter. One or two per mail should be more than enough.

How to design your newsletter

  • Choose a simple template that emphasises your content
  • Fancy designs can distract from the message that you’re trying to get across
  • Don’t use too many images – it will increase the amount of bounced e-mails you get

Don’t hassle your subscribers too much

If there is one thing that is always going to turn people off and either make them unsubscribe or send your mailers to their spam folder is constantly getting updates. While people are obviously interested in what you have to say, it is unlikely they want constant updates on exactly what it is you’re doing in their inbox – that’s what twitter is for.

On average, a monthly newsletter is about right, as it gives people a chance to feel as though they are not bombarded with your message – and it seems to be just the right of time for people to genuinely be interested in what your organisation is up to. If you can’t commit to that regular of a schedule, don’t fret – being irregular in your updates is fine, as long as you’re not mailing people weekly for two months and then doing no updates for 6 months or something equally ridiculous.

As well as eating into your own personal time that could be better spent on other aspects of your online presence, subscribers are going to subconsciously think your messages are less valuable if they’re getting them through more often than they’re ready for. Of course, if you have an emergency appeal that you need to get out there, most of these rules immediately go out of the window – get your message out there as soon as possible, regardless of the last time you sent an e-mail

How often to send your newsletter

  • Ideally around once a month
  • Never more than weekly – and even that is too much
  • Don’t worry too much about sticking to a schedule as long you’re not bombarding people
  • Ignore all of the above if you have an emergency appeal that you need to push immediately.