Email Newsletters: 5 Reasons to Stay in Touch with Donors

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By John Killoran

Your email newsletter is a great way to stay in touch with supporters, but using extra tools and strategies can have a huge payoff! Check out the reasons why.

Like all nonprofits, your organization relies on the support of its donors and partners.You know that maintaining strong relationships year in and year out is essential to continually growing a stable base of support.

You already know, too, how to draft an effective email solicitation that attracts attention, gets to the point, and directly provides a way to give. But do you put this much thought and strategy into your email newsletters?

Think back to the earliest days of your organization. Starting a nonprofit requires consciously building a tight network of initial support to get your efforts off the ground. There’s no reason why actively developing strategies to keep everyone informed and involved shouldn’t still be a priority now that you’ve grown!

It becomes surprisingly easy to drift away from your founding mission when you don’t prioritize communication.That’s why email newsletters are such a crucial tool for nonprofits looking to stay focused, driven, and in touch with their stakeholders.

While every organization understands the need to stay in touch with donors and volunteers, they might not recognize all the interconnected reasons why focusing on your newsletter pays off in the long run. Crafting a perfect email newsletter gives your nonprofit the opportunity to:

  1. Promote all your digital giving outlets.
  2. Loop everyone in on your projects and goals.
  3. Boost overall donor and volunteer engagement.
  4. Connect all your campaigns and events.
  5. Build stronger relationships with donors.

Strengthening even one element of your email newsletters will boost their overall effect! By crafting more engaging strategies for your newsletters, you can make a serious long-term investment in your nonprofit’s ability to attract and retain committed supporters.

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1. Promote all your digital giving outlets.

Email newsletters are a perfect place to promote and explain new donation tools that your nonprofit adopts as its strategies evolve.

This doesn’t necessarily mean soliciting donations! You already conduct separate email campaigns to reach your fundraising goals. While you can certainly ask for donations in your newsletter, your recipients are presumably already committed to supporting your work.

Rather, focus on raising awareness and explaining new donation tools and platforms in the context of your next fundraising campaigns.

Check out Snowball’s rundown of PayPal alternatives for nonprofits for more information on how nonprofit-centric payment and donation platforms will catch your donors’ attention, help you pursue your goals, and conduct more engaging campaigns.

Consider how you could promote and explain these donation platforms in your newsletter:

  • Text-to-give tools to incorporate into your events
  • Mobile-optimized donation forms to boost mobile donations
  • Crowdfunding campaigns for specific goals or projects
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns leading up to major events

Plus, your email newsletter provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about your supporters’ preferred methods of communication and giving. Linking your recipients to a quick survey can have a major payoff for your mobile engagement levels by helping you refine your marketing and digital fundraising strategies.

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2. Loop everyone in on your projects and goals.

Another reason to focus on your email newsletters is that keeping all your donors, volunteers, and stakeholders fully informed about your projects and goals is the first step to getting them excited and involved!

Use your newsletter to announce your next campaign or provide a sneak peek of your next major event. Give your readers the sense that they’ve received a special ‘inside scoop’ to build excitement and rally support. You might share updates on any of your projects, like:

  • Client success stories
  • Upcoming fundraising campaigns
  • New community initiatives
  • Advocacy projects and campaigns
  • Capital campaigns and major developmental goals
  • Grant writing projects and donor surveys
  • New partners and sponsorships

Aside from making it easier to get everyone involved, sharing regular updates is useful because it provides the opportunity to collect more feedback. Keeping everyone informed and engaged means you’ll be able to gather more information and insights to guide your plans.

How well do you know your donors? Simply asking for feedback on your projects or campaigns with a suggestion form in your newsletter can be a surprisingly effective method for guiding your marketing and fundraising strategies.

Plus, your most dedicated supporters will have plenty of ideas of how you could approach your goals. For instance, a longtime volunteer can likely share important insights as you develop a programming proposal for a grant application!

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3. Boost overall donor and volunteer engagement.

Keeping everyone aware of new ways to support your organization’s work and updated on upcoming projects will provide a natural boost to donor engagement. Your newsletter recipients will feel more involved, which will encourage them to get more involved!

This engagement boost will take several familiar forms:

  • Digital engagement. Keep your base of support updated on your online fundraising and social media campaigns to see an increase in digital interactions.
  • Volunteering. Use your newsletter to make volunteering easier. Promote upcoming projects, provide sign-up forms, and mention any incentives you’ll offer.
  • Financial support. Explain new campaigns and tools in your newsletter, giving your recipients a more intimate view of your goals and planning process.

Remember to take the opportunity in your email newsletter to provide some easy tools for recipients to further their engagement, too.

Corporate philanthropy search tools are a great example. Include a search tool that allows your supporters to search for their employers’ corporate philanthropy programs. Matching gifts and volunteer grants are the perfect way for supporters to boost their impact.

These programs are generally not used much, so some programs can be extremely generous. If your organization has an active volunteer program, check out the top volunteer grant companies from 360MatchPro for an idea of the extra funds you might be eligible to receive!

As a way to potentially address all of your supporters at once, your email newsletter is the best place to promote extra tools and options that can boost the impact of your supporters’ engagement with your work.

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4. Connect all your campaigns and events.

Actively connecting your various activities is a great way to grow engagement and make more effective solicitations when fundraising. Your email newsletter is the perfect place to put this strategy into practice!

Solicitations become more effective when supporters can clearly understand how all your events, activities, and campaigns fit together in pursuit of your mission.

Think about it: an online fundraising campaign that feels disjointed or disconnected from any of your nonprofit’s overarching goals isn’t particularly inspiring.

Rather, use your newsletter to clarify the connections! For example, here’s how you might explain and promote some campaign elements in your newsletter by framing them around the shared purpose of supporting an upcoming 5K:

  • A peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Encourage recipients to donate, volunteer, and form teams as you raise pledges for the big race.
  • Your marketing campaign. As you promote the 5K online, ask your newsletter readers to share your posts and invitations on social media.
  • Merchandise promotion. Link to your online store, t-shirt crowdfunding campaign, or order form for your 5K shirts. Or explain how teams can design their own!
  • The grand finale event. Promote the big 5K in your newsletter, invite all your recipients, and provide important necessary information for participants and attendees.

In this example, all the cross-promotional effort and campaigning will result in a hugely successful event! Giving supporters multiple ways to get involved and using your newsletter to clearly explain how it all connects to support the 5K gives your entire network of support a clearer, more focused goal.

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5. Build stronger relationships with donors.

Finally, remember that the long-term benefit of focusing effort on your email newsletter is that it’s an effective tool for expressing gratitude to your supporters.

By thanking your donors and volunteers and showing how their support directly helps further your mission, you can reinforce those important relationships. Plus, you’ll be contributing to a healthy culture for your nonprofit, ensuring it can retain more and more satisfied donors.

There are a number of ways to use your email newsletter to build stronger relationships with supporters:

  • Provide updates and success stories on campaigns and projects.
  • Promote and thank your important community partners.
  • Recognize individuals who go above and beyond in supporting your work.
  • Invite your newsletter recipients to special thank-you events.
  • Share surveys and field suggestions to better refine your retention strategies.

Thanking your supporters means you’ll need to switch out of solicitation mode for a moment.

Building strong mutual relationships and genuinely expressing your gratitude does more in the long run for retaining valuable support than constantly soliciting more funds, even if your donors are consistently happy to support your campaigns.

A great way to make sure your messages of thanks in your newsletter stay effective is to focus on the language you use. Drop the fundraising jargon, and keep your tone warm and natural. After all, the support of these important partners is worth celebrating!

The most basic function of a nonprofit email newsletter is to share updates with your supporters and announce new projects, but incorporating some smart strategies and being aware of all the roles a newsletter can play will make them even more effective.

By using your email newsletter as a space to communicate, explain new donation tools, provide ways to boost engagement, and connect all your campaigns, you’ll strengthen your donor relations overall!

John Killoran

John Killoran is CEO of Snowball, an exciting new fundraising technology that makes it easy for people to donate in two clicks from text, email, web and social media sites.John pioneered SMTP payments and has been a major innovator in the mobile payments space for the past 5 years. When he is not running a company, he is cooking food for his family and telling his dogs to stop barking.

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Stay in Touch Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

37251899914_2155c24033_mDonor retention continues to be a problem and one of the reasons is poor communication. Nonprofits don’t communicate with their donors enough. Sometimes the only time we hear from organizations is when they’re asking for donations.

You must communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month throughout the year. If you’re getting stressed out wondering how you’re going to pull this off, then you need a communications calendar (also known as an editorial calendar).

I like the term communications calendar because it emphasizes the importance of communicating with your donors and other supporters all-year-round.

This is not just a job for your marketing department. All departments need to work together. Figure out what information you need to share and when to share it. You want a consistent stream of information – not three emails in one day and nothing for three weeks.

As you put together your communications calendar, think about how you will use different channels and which audience(s) should receive your messages. You may only send direct mail a few times a year, but send an e-newsletter once a month and communicate by social media several times a week. You’ll often use a number of different channels when you send a fundraising appeal or promote an event.

Start big by looking at the entire year and then break it down by months and weeks. You’ll keep adding to your communications calendar throughout the year.

While this post is primarily about setting up a communications calendar, you also have to share content your donors will be interested in. I’ll write more about that in future posts.

Here are some categories you can use in your communications calendar. Some items will be time sensitive and others won’t be.

Events

Does your organization hold any events? Besides your events, are there other events in your community that would be of interest to your supporters? This is a great thing to share on social media.

Legislation

Advocacy alerts are a wonderful way to engage with your supporters. Be on the lookout for any federal or state legislation that’s relevant to your organization. Encourage people to contact their legislators about an issue or a bill. Then report back to them with any updates, and thank them for getting involved.

Time of year

Is there something going on during a particular month that’s pertinent to your organization? Perhaps it’s homelessness or mental health awareness month.

Thanksgiving, the holidays, and winter can be a difficult time for some people. How can you weave that into a good story to share with your supporters?  In addition, think of creative ways to connect at other times of the year such as Valentine’s Day, spring, and back-to-school time.

News stories

There’s a lot going on in the news these days. You won’t be able to predict news stories in advance. However, if there’s a hot item in the news that’s relevant to the work you do, that could be something to share or use as an example of how you’re helping to make a difference for the people/community you serve.

Fundraising and recruitment

Be sure to add your fundraising appeals to your communications calendar. You want to highlight these and not inundate your donors with a lot of other information at that time.

If your organization has specific times it needs to recruit volunteers, add that to your calendar, as well.

Thank your donors

This is crucial! Find different ways to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. Do this at least once a month.

Ongoing content

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell. Share a story at least once a month. Client success stories (either in the first or third person) are best. You could also profile a board member, volunteer, donor, or staff member. Be sure to highlight what drew them to your organization.

Create a story bank to help you with this.

Keep it up

As you hear about other relevant information, add it to your calendar so you can stay connected with your donors/supporters throughout the year.

Here is more information to help you create a communications/editorial calendar, along with a couple of templates.

How to Create a Nonprofit Editorial Calendar

The Power of a Donor Communications Calendar

Evergreen Editorial Calendar

Editorial Calendars – Resources for You

 

 

Don’t Be Part of the Noise – Make Your Email Messages Stand Out

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Email is usually the primary mode of communication for nonprofits and there’s a reason for that. It’s fast, easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost everyone has an email address. You can quickly get a message out to a lot of people.

But guess what? You’re not the one sending email. People get hundreds of emails a day plus messages from other sources such as social media. It’s information overload on steroids right now and much of it is just noise.

Here’s how you can rise above the noise and make your email messages stand out.

What’s your intention?

What’s the purpose of your message? What do you want your reader to do? Maybe it’s to donate, volunteer, attend an event, or contact her legislators. Maybe you’re sharing an update.

Think from your reader’s perspective. What would she be interested in or what would make him take action?

Keep it simple and stick to one call to action.

Pay attention to your subject line

A good subject line is the key to getting someone to open your email message. If he doesn’t bother to open it, your hard work has gone to waste.

Give some thought to it. Instead of Donate to our Annual Appeal or May 2017 Newsletter, try Find out how you can help Gina learn to read or Thanks to you, the Miller family can put food on the table tonight.

Improve the ROI of Your Nonprofit Email with a Great Subject Line

Short and sweet

Just because someone has opened your email message, doesn’t mean she’ll read it. Keep her interested. Remember your email is one of hundreds your reader will receive that day. Make it short, but engaging, and get to the point right away.

Make it easy to read and scan

Besides sending a short message, use short paragraphs, too. It needs to be easy to read (and scan) in an instant. Don’t use micro-sized font either.

Be personal and conversational

Write directly to your reader using clear, conversational language – no jargon. Address your message to a person – Dear Susan and not Dear Friend.

Use an email service provider that lets you segment your lists so you can personalize your messages. For example, you’ll create different messages for current donors, potential donors, and lapsed donors.

Send your email to the right audience

You may want to reach out to tons of people about an upcoming event, but you’ll have better luck concentrating on people who will be interested, such as past attendees. Just because email lets you communicate with a large audience, doesn’t mean you should. Otherwise, you’re just generating more noise.

Be a welcome visitor

If you communicate regularly and do it well, your readers should recognize you as a reputable source and are more likely to read your message.

Make sure people know your message is coming from your organization. In the from field, put DoGood Nonprofit or Sarah Wilson, DoGood Nonprofit. If you just put a person’s name or info@dogoodnonprofit.org, people may not know who it’s from and ignore your message.

Create a no spam zone

Only send email to people who have opted into your list. Otherwise, you’re spamming them. Some people will choose not to receive email from you, and that’s okay. The ones who do are interested in hearing from you. Give people the option to unsubscribe, too.

Once is not enough

If you’re using email to send a fundraising appeal or event invitation, you’ll probably have to send more than one message. Try not to send messages to people who have already responded.

Be mobile friendly

Many people read their email on a mobile device. If your message isn’t mobile friendly, you’re missing out.

Your email messages can stand out and not become part of the noise if you give some thought to them and do it well. Here’s more information about communicating by email.

How to Make Your Marketing Emails Stand Out in Your Donor’s Inbox

11 Fundraising Email Best Practices To Drive High Response Rates

Nonprofit Marketing: Email Marketing Benefits, How-Tos and Best Practices

 

Raising Awareness is Not a Goal

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When you’re putting together your marketing and communications plans, do you include raising awareness as one of your goals? If you do, that’s a problem because raising awareness is not a goal. Raising awareness isn’t necessarily bad. Instead of a goal, think of it as a first step.

Shouting in the wind

Nonprofit consultant Nell Eddington makes this important point “When you attempt to “raise awareness” without a specific and targeted strategy, you are just shouting in the wind.” What Nonprofits Don’t Get About Marketing

Why do you want to raise awareness?

Organizations will say they want people to find out about them or their cause, but why do you want that? Do you want people to donate, volunteer, or contact their legislators? Just knowing about your organization or your cause isn’t enough. You need a call to action.

Raising awareness is not an effective way to fundraise. In this Boston Globe Magazine article We’re all aware of autism; now let’s do something radical by Alysia Abbott, Abbott is trying to make a purchase at a store. While ringing up the sale, the cashier says, “April is Autism Awareness Month. Would you like to make a donation to Autism Speaks?” Not a compelling fundraising pitch. Besides, Abbott is well aware of autism, since her 8-year old son, who is with her at the store, is autistic. Her main concern is to make her purchase and get her “son out of here before he tears apart your store.”

Taking the next steps

Raising awareness doesn’t mean bombarding people with facts and statistics. I learned a lot from Abbott’s story. She offers suggestions of ways to help families who live with autism, ranging from giving encouragement to parents with autistic children to making a donation to an organization that provides service dogs for autistic children and volunteering to become autism buddy.

This what you need to do. Tell a story that will encourage people to take action.

The perils of an awareness month

In this Fundraising is Beautiful podcast The upsides and downsides of holiday-based fundraising, Jeff Brooks and Steven Screen also make the argument that awareness days/months don’t mean that much to donors. The same goes for most holidays, your organization’s anniversary, and that’s it’s your annual appeal.

Donors want you to show them how they can help you make a difference and you don’t need an awareness month to do that.

More doesn’t equal better

It’s tempting to say we want more people to find out about us, but not everyone will be interested in what you do. Your Audience Isn’t Everyone  Press coverage may not help you as much as you’d like. Reach out to people you know will be interested.

Awareness + Call to Action

Don’t get caught in the raising awareness trap. If there’s an awareness month related to your cause, yes, you can acknowledge that, but follow it up with a clear call to action.

 

A Gift For Your Donors

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A few weeks ago Kivi Leroux Miller gave a webinar for Bloomerang  – 5 Steps To A Great Nonprofit Email Newsletter  I encourage you to watch the video. It’s filled with pearls of wisdom and well worth an hour of your time.

One piece of advice that stood out for me was to think of your newsletter as a gift for your donors. They should look forward to receiving it.

That’s not usually the case, is it? Email and even direct mail can be an intrusion in our busy lives. Most nonprofit newsletters and other communication are boring, generic, and don’t seem like a gift at all.

You can change that. Here’s how you can make your newsletter and other donor communication a gift for your donors.

What makes a good gift giver?

In the webinar, Kivi asks the participants to chime in about the good and bad gift givers in their lives. I invite you to do this exercise with your marketing and fundraising staff or by yourself. Think of who gives you great gifts and why you like them so much and who misses the mark and why?

A good gift giver knows what the recipient likes and gives her something personal that shows she cares.

A bad gift giver might give something generic and doesn’t put a lot of thought into it. She thinks more about what she would like.

You want to be a good gift giver when it comes to donor communication.

Give yourself enough time

Think about when you’re in a rush and need to get a birthday or holiday gift right away. You’re going to buy whatever you can find, as opposed to taking the time to think about what the person would want.

Plan ahead and think through what you want to send to your donors. A communications calendar will help you with that.

What do I do with this?

Have you ever received a gift and you don’t know what to do with it? This is how your donors feel when they receive your boring 20-page annual report. It’s way too long and filled with mind-numbing facts and statistics. Chances are it’s going straight in the recycling bin.

Instead, impress your donors with a four-page gratitude report that’s filled with thanks to the donor for helping you make a difference.

What do your donors want?

My family gives each other wish lists at Christmas time. Put a short poll in your e-newsletter asking readers which article they liked best. Ask them what issues are important to them. Find out which channels your donors prefer. It may be more than one  

Listen to your donors and give them what they want.

Create pretty a package that your donors will want to open

The look of your communication is just as important as what’s inside. Your messages should be easy to read and scan. Use short paragraphs and lots of white space. Capture your donor’s attention right away with a great photo.

Your email subject line needs to sing. Find out how you helped Jane learn to read is going to be much more inviting than April 2016 Newsletter. I often scan through my email and only open things that look enticing.

Even though people don’t get as much direct mail, make yours stand out. Put your quarterly newsletter in an envelope and hand address your thank you notes if you can.

Attraction not interruption

Do you think you can create communication your donors will look forward to receiving? The key is to attract them by giving them what they want.

Photo by Liz West

 

Make it Easy to Stay in Touch with Your Donors by Using a Communications Calendar

21845903390_87736502bb_zMany of you are working hard on your year-end appeal.  You may have also participated in #GivingTuesday. If you think you can rest easy after the fundraising  season is over, think again. Your work has just begun.

You need to communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month throughout the year.  If you’re getting butterflies in your stomach wondering how you’re going to pull this off, then you need a communications calendar (also known as an editorial calendar).

I like the term communications calendar because it emphasizes the importance of communicating with your donors and other supporters all-year-round.

This is not just a job for your marketing department. All departments need to work together.  Figure out what information you need to share and when to share it.  You want a consistent stream of information – not three emails in one day and nothing for three weeks.

As you put together your communications calendar, think about how you will use different channels and which audience(s) should receive your messages. You may only send direct mail a few times a year, but send an e-newsletter once a month and communicate by social media several times a week. You’ll often use a number of different channels when you send a fundraising appeal or promote an event.

Start big by looking at the entire year and then break it down by months and weeks.  You’ll keep adding to your communications calendar throughout the year.

Here are some categories you can use in your communications calendar. Some items will be time sensitive and others won’t be.

Events

Does your organization hold any events? Besides your events, are there other events in your community that would be of interest to your supporters? This is a great thing to share on social media.

Legislation

Advocacy alerts are a wonderful way to engage with your supporters. Be on the lookout for any federal or state legislation that’s relevant to your organization. Encourage people to contact their legislators about an issue or a bill. Then report back to them with any updates, and thank them for getting involved.

Time of year

Is there something going on during a particular month that’s pertinent to your organization? Perhaps it’s homelessness awareness month.

Thanksgiving, the holidays, and winter can be a difficult time for some people. How can you weave that into a good story to share with your supporters?

News stories

You won’t be able to predict news stories in advance. However, if there’s a hot item in the news right now that’s relevant to the work you do, that could be something to share.

Fundraising and recruitment

Be sure to add your fundraising appeals to your communications calendar. You want to highlight these and not inundate your donors with a lot of other information at that time.

If your organization has specific times it needs to recruit volunteers, add that to your calendar, as well.

Thank your donors

Figure out different ways to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. Do this at least once a month.

Ongoing content

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell. Share a story at least once a month. Client success stories are best. You could also profile a board member, volunteer, donor, or staff member.  Be sure to highlight what drew them to your organization.

Keep it up

As you hear about other relevant information, add it to your calendar, so you can stay connected with your supporters throughout the year.

Here is more information to help you create a communications/editorial calendar.

Coordinate Your Team with the 2016 LightBox Collaborative Editorial Calendar

Editorial Calendars – Resources for You

How To Create A Story Editorial Calendar

Why Editorial Calendars Help Nonprofits

Photo by Jeff Djevdet http://speedpropertybuyers.co.uk/

Is Your Website in Good Shape?

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As summer winds down and you start getting ready for year-end fundraising, you need to make sure your website is in good shape. This means it’s up-to-date, easy to read and navigate, welcoming, and audience-centered.

How does your website fare?  Use the checklist below to find out.

Home page

Your home page is often the first place a newcomer will visit. Make it an entryway to the rest of your website.

  • Is it free of clutter and easy to navigate and read?
  • Does it include an engaging photo and a small amount of text, such as a tagline or position statement?
  • If you’re highlighting something such as an event, is the information up-to-date, and is it the most newsworthy item you can feature?
  • Does it include a Donate Now button that’s prominent without being tacky?
  • Does it include a newsletter sign up box and social media icons?
  • Does it include your organization’s contact information or a link to a Contact Us page?
  • Is the navigation bar easy to use?
  • Does it include a search feature?

Donation page

More people donate online now.  Make sure your donation page doesn’t make someone want to tear her hair out.

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Does it include a strong call to action with the same messages as all your other fundraising appeals?
  • Does it show how the donation will be used and what different amounts will fund?
  • Does it include an option for recurring gifts?
  • Does it have an engaging photo?
  • After someone donates, does it take the person to a thank you landing page and generate a thank you email?

The rest of your pages

Be sure to take a look at the rest of your web pages,too.

  • Are they easy to read/scan and navigate?
  • Do all your pages have a consistent look?
  • Is the content well written in a conversational style (no jargon) and free of grammatical errors and typos?
  • Are your pages audience-centered? Remember, some visitors know you well and others don’t. A person visiting your volunteer page may not know much about your organization, so you’ll need to include a compelling description of what you do.
  • Do your pages contain a clear call to action? For example, your volunteer page should entice someone to volunteer.
  • Does each page have one or two photos related to its subject matter? Going back to your volunteer page, you could include a photo of volunteers interacting with clients.
  • Is all the content up-to-date?
  • Do all your links work?
  • Do all your pages include a Donate Now button, navigation bar, social media icons, a newsletter sign up box, contact information, and a search feature, so your visitors don’t have to go back to the home page?
  • Are you using analytics to see how often people visit your pages? If you have pages that aren’t generating a lot of interest, find out why that’s happening. You may need to make the page more engaging or take it down.
  • Do you periodically survey your supporters to get feedback about your website?
  • Is your website mobile and tablet friendly?  The Essential Guide to Going Mobile for Nonprofits
  • Is there other content you should include (or take out)?

After you’ve made all your changes, have someone who isn’t as familiar with your organization (maybe a friend or family member) look at your website to see if the content is clear and it’s easy to navigate.

Your goal is to have a website that’s welcoming and audience-centered for everyone from first-time visitors to long-time donors.

Read on for more information to help you get your website in good shape.

12 Things For A Great Nonprofit Website

10 Tips to Improve Your Nonprofit Website

Trends in Great Non-Profit Website Design

7 Tips for Creating an Awesome Nonprofit Website