How to Build Trust in Donor Communications with Email Newsletters

Email newsletters are one of the most important and least expensive communication channels you have with your donors.

A regularly scheduled email newsletter keeps your audience updated and helps to build trust with subscribers in nonprofit marketing.

Many nonprofits believe that their email open and click through rates are too low.

That said, if your open rate is hovering around 21% and your click through rate is about 8%, your nonprofit email marketing is right on target according to a report released by Constant Contact in April of this year.

How can you create a newsletter that keeps your audience engaged and delivers the results you are looking for?

Whether you’re already publishing an email newsletter or considering launching one here are some things to think about from a direct marketing perspective.

Opt-in; Because email newsletters are opt-in publications, your readers have a prequalified interest in what you have to offer. They see you as a credible source of new ideas and reliable updates. Keep this in mind as you develop your content calendar and remember that disappointed readers can opt out any time.

Subject line; unlike traditional ink-on-paper newsletters that often arrive unannounced and unwanted with a “we-me” focus, an opt-in email newsletter must immediately answer the question “what’s in it for me?” It starts with the subject line that needs to encourage opening your email. This means you need to;

  • Pretest subject lines to increase open rates
  • Learn how to fine-tune subject lines to introduce the value of each issue
  • Test different subject lines with different audience segments
  • Consider adding the word “why” to create curiosity

Content; one of the biggest challenges for nonprofit writers is creating and maintaining content that’s relevant and engaging. Quality content starts with defining an objective for your newsletter, then creating an editorial calendar that supports it. For example, if your goal is to generate clickthrough traffic to specific pages on your website, your writer needs to know this. A great example of a newsletter that does this is the National Wildlife Federation. Click here to view the email.

Reader interaction; as a reader and a writer, I appreciate the two-way nature of email newsletters. Instead of being static and one-dimensional, email newsletters provide plenty of opportunities for interaction. It may be as simple as emailing an article or issue to a friend or colleague, providing requested feedback, or downloading a valuable resource to use and share with others.

Segmentation; all donors and subscribers are not alike, so why treat them identically when you can target and segment? Test segmenting starting with your subject line and above-the-fold feature articles. As a nonprofit direct marketer, you know to test those elements first that are most likely to leverage response. In this case that’s the open and click through rate. Track response then plan future issues accordingly.

Frequency; how frequently should you send your newsletter? What makes sense for your objectives, content focus and audience expectations? Frequency is another factor to test. The question to answer is, “what do our readers want?” You might be surprised by what you learn.

Visual format; while I am a reader and a writer, I know that how your visually present words, everything from typeface and placement to backgrounds and surrounding images, affects if words are read and how they are read. You don’t want your email newsletter to be clumsy, complex or inconsistent in how it looks or navigates. Email newsletters that are easy to read promote involvement and simplicity increases understanding. Consistency encourages your nonprofit brand recognition and anticipation for the next issue to arrive. It all adds up to more readership and more response.

A digital newsletter is an excellent opportunity for you to connect with your audience and drive engagement and donations.

Email newsletters can leverage your email list into donations, but you need to have a great newsletter to do so.

While you work to retain your established donors, you also need to think about the future.

Attracting and retaining donors is an unceasing process.

When the majority of your organizations funds come from private donors, you need strategic processes in place to identify potential donors and communicate with them effectively.

To learn more about attracting and retaining donors, download our eGuide entitled How to Attract and Retain Donors.

You can access it here.