The Missing Links
A lot of nonprofits create what I call free-standing enewsletters; they just lay the news out, occasionally including links but not always back to their own website or social media pages. If you are just writing a really long letter to people with standalone news tidbits, you are missing out on the whole modern technology thing and the amazing ability we have to connect everything to draw people in for additional engagement. Adding social media buttons at the bottom of your enewsletter is just a START. Here is the process I follow when pulling together enewsletters for clients:
Plan It Out
Creating a Recipe
Every enewsletter has a defined content mix or “recipe” (not just a physical design template) which makes it easier to pull everything together. They are general guidelines and, with consistent planned website updates, they are easy to work with – with room to be flexible. One nonprofit mix might be:
1. 30-word maximum quick message from the ED.
2. Two featured news articles that have more text, big photos and link back to the website for more information (“no asks”).
3. One event banner (for the next upcoming event) that links to the event registration page.
4. One featured How You Can Help – this changes monthly and only one is allowed to keep the enewsletter from turning into a monthly annual campaign, which would really annoy people.
5. Three to four lesser news items with thumbnail photos and 1-2 lines of text that may or may not link back to the site or social media pages.
6. Four link-only items that are relevant shortcuts to pages on the website or social media sites or download regularly used documents. At least 2 of these links go to a social media outlet.
Each nonprofit has a different mix depending on the types of content they have – but they all keep a balance between “asks” vs. news, (more news than “asks”), links to the main site vs. other areas (no links go directly to someone else’s site unless they are a partner), a balance of news with and without photos (mostly with photos) and a limit to the number of banners/ads on the page that can make it look cluttered.
Putting the Enewsletter Together
It Starts with the Website
At least 75% of the news is on the nonprofit’s website before it goes in the enewsletter. Where does it go? Each nonprofit’s website needs to have areas where content can be regularly updated/added i.e. program updates, news and videos under Programs, educational articles, advocacy updates and aggregated news under Resources (or Newsroom), client stories or volunteer/donor profiles and special event updates in the Get Involved section. Everything else can go in the Newsroom. You can also create a special landing page just for a specific call to action – like the example below. Neither the website nor the newsletter should be static – everything should be changing and linked together.
Missing Website Content
There are several content items that I notice are often promoted in a nonprofit’s enewsletter but not on the website.
1. News coverage. Quite a few nonprofits will link directly to an outside news story about their organization from their enewsletter. I really don’t like sending people away unless it’s to your own site. I know there are copyright issues that could prevent you from directly copying the article to your site – BUT – you could summarize the article on your website with additional photos of your own and THEN link to the outside site. Then your enewsletter can link back to your site and not someone else’s.
2. Class schedules. I also often see enewsletters chock full of class schedules with no link to the main website – usually because they don’t have the class schedule even ON their main website. To me, this indicates they have a static brochure website and/or they do not have a reliable webmaster to make those kinds of updates. Either way, this needs to be remedied! I would recommend listing only the upcoming classes and then link back to the website page with the full class schedule.
3. Registrations. I can’t tell you how many times I see “CALL to register” for a class or special event. I’ve actually called to register for things before and I often get passed from person to person as they figure out who exactly I should talk to and then it’s dicey if they will even be able to take your payment over the phone. Entities who are geared around ticket sales (like the example below) are better equipped to handle phone call registrations. From your constituent’s perspective, it’s much cleaner to just have a big call to action button to REGISTER NOW (don’t skip calls to action in your enewsletter) and then send them to a page on your website where they can register online (AND include a printable form for those that want to mail it in). Simple registration forms connected to your Paypal account are just not that challenging for your webmaster to pull together so there is really no reason NOT to do it.
After You Send Your Enewsletter Off
Archiving Step 1
If you don’t archive your enewsletter through your email service provider – you miss out on another opportunity to have additional content on your website AND you could deprive your constituents of the ability to actually read your enewsletter. I often get too busy to read an enewsletter immediately but save it to read later, only to discover that the graphics or newsletter parts aren’t showing up quite properly in my email and the link to view it online is no longer working because it has expired. Archived emails would not have expired links. You may have to pay a few extra dollars per month, but it’s worth it to have access to that content.
Archiving Step 2
As you send off the enewsletter and archive it with your email service provider, grab the unique URL they provide and add it to your Newsroom as an archived enewsletter.
Talk About It
After you’re archived everything, you can Tweet about your enewsletter (with a link to your unique enewsletter URL) or post a link to it on Facebook; to make it more interesting, post a link to one of your featured articles on your website and link to the full enewsletter form there OR upload a photo you featured that links directly to the enewsletter.