Do You Need an e-Newsletter?

Nonprofit newsletter imageWithout knowing the specifics of your organization, community or mission we can still answer – with a fair bit of confidence – yes.

An e-newsletter can provide your organization with an easy way to:
* update your constituency;
* keep you top of mind;
* drive traffic to your website;
* create new or specific giving opportunities;
* provide an additional opportunity to thank donors;
* solicit volunteers; and
* search for supplies and/or in-kind donations.

Opportunities abound to use “high technology” to maintain “high touch” with your community of friends and supporters.

But, what does it cost?
Unlike the creation, printing and mailing costs associated with a traditional newsletter, an e-newsletter’s costs are extremely low. There are templates available in stores and on-line through a variety of sources.

At Mersky, Jaffe & Associates we use, and often recommend, Constant Contact. Monthly fees are based on the size of your database (a list of up to 500 emails will only cost $15 a month) and include a choice of templates to get your newsletter up and running as quickly as you can write it. Some code knowledge is helpful but their focus on smaller businesses means that their FAQs and help sections do not expect you to be an information technology specialist.

What would I write?
Substance is essential. What constitutes substance depends on the organization and who will be reading it. We recommend 3-4 content sections with at least one article. relating to a common theme that will unify all the sections

If you are a museum perhaps you could offer:
* an article on one of your current exhibits,
* a highlight of one of your staff members
* and a local arts calendar may be appropriate.

For a synagogue it may be:
* A comment from the Rabbi about the weekly Torah portion or a current event
* a story from the Midrash highlighting a particular value for family education,
* a profile of a board member,
* an article about a recent event
* and a calendar of upcoming learning opportunities both live and on-line.

Always remember how easy it is to hit the delete button.

How often should we send it?
Set up a regular schedule and stick to it. Just as with a traditional newsletter, regularity will build credibility. Once a quarter or once a month should fulfill the needs of almost all organizations. Sending weekly updates about mundane details will not further your cause, but weekly messages of real content that are brief and too the point can build a community who are ever more deeply invested in your work.

Where do we get subscribers?
Collecting email addresses is something that should be approached with care. There are a lot of restrictions, as there should be, about sending unsolicited emails. Ideally, you already have your constituents’ email addresses. If not, you will have to be creative about how to get them – provide a sign up sheet at events, send a note in your next mailing suggesting people send you an email with the words “sign me up” if they would like to receive your newsletter. Each time you gain a new member or speak with a potential member, ask if he or she would be interested in “subscribing” to your e-newsletter.

Asking permission is essential, but you must always have an opt-out option as well – and respect their wishes. Spam is a serious offense and may damage your organization’s reputation.

A Recap
Write what you know and have fun with your newsletter. This is another way to let your organization shine. Make sure it sparkles.