I know.  You’re already swamped with things to do and the last thing you need is something else to add to your plate.  But if done well, an email newsletter can be a huge asset to your nonprofit’s ability to fundraise as well as rally volunteers and supporters.

Below are some of the ways that a well-executed email newsletter can benefit your nonprofit.  But first, a quick note on segmentation and spam.

Segmenting Your Email List and Avoiding Spam

Segmentation is the process of breaking your email subscribers into smaller subgroups based on some sort of criteria.  This can either be done by a subscriber when they sign up for your email newsletter or by you as you analyze data.  Many email-marketing services allow you to build a signup form that gives users the ability to indicate their interests.  The options you include on this list will vary based on the types of emails you plan on sending.  Some potential interests that could ultimately become your individual email subgroups include:

  • Donation information
  • Upcoming events
  • Upcoming volunteer opportunities
  • News about our nonprofit
  • Articles and blog posts related to our mission
  • Our impact in the community

Additionally, it’s important you don’t send unsolicited emails to anyone.  This is called spam, and it is not only annoying, it’s actually illegal.  Tips on getting started with email newsletters are a bit outside the scope of this article, but segmentation and spam are both too important to overlook.

Now let’s get into the fun stuff – the benefits your nonprofit can gain from setting up an email newsletter.

Maintain Relationships

Maintaining relationships is understandably a priority for most nonprofits. You don’t want to be the kind of organization that only reaches out to supporters when you’re soliciting for help.  Email newsletters can be an effective way to maintain relationships with donors, volunteers and advocates on an ongoing basis.

In fact, the Wired Wealthy Report (on “middle and major donors” who average $10,879.36 in annual giving) found that 25.9% of respondents reported reading more than three-quarters of the charity emails they receive.  With how fierce the competition for attention is nowadays, getting such a consistently large percentage of eyes on your content from such a generous demographic can be very valuable to your nonprofit’s ability to fundraise.

But the key here is to provide an email newsletter that is valuable to your recipients.  In order to maintain any relationship it must be mutually beneficial.  If you’re only reaching out in times of need or sharing info your recipients don’t care about, you’ll likely end up in the “Trash” folder.

Distribute Informative Content

Chances are you know a whole lot about the community your nonprofit serves.  You may even already be creating a bunch of useful content for your blog or for various publications.  Maybe you’ve written some white papers that are available on your website.  Or perhaps you’ve toyed with the idea of writing but haven’t done so yet.

Regardless, your email newsletter can be a great way to educate those interested in your cause, thus equipping them with knowledge to be a more informed supporter of your nonprofit.  Even if they don’t donate or volunteer with your organization, they’ll hopefully become a more engaged supporter of the type of work your nonprofit is doing.

Promote Upcoming Events and Volunteer Opportunities

For those that indicated they’re interested in hearing from your nonprofit about events, email newsletters can be a great way to spread the word about what’s coming up.  Many supporters likely won’t regularly visit your website to see what’s on the calendar.  But if you send it directly to their inbox, there’s a better chance they’ll know of an upcoming event and hopefully be able to get involved.

Additionally, for those interested in volunteering for your nonprofit, an email newsletter can be a great way to promote volunteer opportunities.  In fact, a study on young people (ages 20-35) found that when they’re contacted by a nonprofit, 70% want to know about volunteer opportunities.  In terms of raising volunteers, this is a particularly good group to have involved since 79% of respondents indicated they’d volunteered for a nonprofit in 2010.  And of those that didn’t volunteer, 45% of them said they didn’t volunteer because they simply weren’t asked to do so.

Emails Are Easy To Share

Much like social media, emails make it easy for your supporters to spread the word about your nonprofit and the work you’re doing.  And people are far more receptive to something that’s been recommended to them by a friend or family member.  That same study on young people (ages 20-35) found that 77% reported “they would trust organizations endorsed by friend or family members.”

Additionally, the Wired Wealthy Report indicates that many larger donors are sharing emails with others.  In the study, 42% of respondents said they’ve forwarded a message from a charity to a friend or colleague.  With the simple click of a button, these people can help your nonprofit spread the word to an audience that’s likely to be more receptive receiving your email from someone they trust.

Share Your Nonprofit’s Successes

Most people get involved with your nonprofit because they care about your success as an organization.  They want to see you benefiting the community and fulfilling your mission.

Email newsletters are a great way for your nonprofit to showcase the impact it’s having in the community.  It’s also a method of keeping your supporters feeling like they’re an ongoing part of your success.  This can be a great way to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with supporters as opposed to simply reaching out when you need something.  It can help to increase the level of investment people have in the success of your organization.

Sharing successes can also translate into an increased likelihood that donors will continue to financially support your organization into the future.  In the Wired Wealthy Report, 33% of respondents indicated that if a charity tells them how their donation was spent and the impact it had, they’d be “a lot more likely” to give again in the future.

Simply sharing what your nonprofit is already doing via an email newsletter can have significant benefits to your organization in the long run.

Recognizing Donors, Volunteers and Supporters

Recognition of those that contribute to your nonprofit’s success can prove very helpful in establishing long-term relationships.  You can use your nonprofit’s email newsletter as an opportunity to thank those that have contributed in various capacities and provide details on what their support meant to your community.  Such small gestures can have a huge impact.

Much Easier and Cheaper Than Direct Mail

Finally, email newsletters are much easier to produce and cheaper than traditional printed direct mail.  You don’t have to deal with printing or postage and you can include links directly to other components of your web presence.

An email newsletter can be a fairly simple but effective addition to your nonprofit’s overall web presence.  It can help you not only connect with donors, volunteers and supporters, but also maintain these relationships and keep your nonprofit on the top of people’s minds, thus increasing the likelihood they’ll continue to support you long into the future.

Access Our Nonprofit Newsletter Virtual Library

Get on the right track with your email newsletter strategy using tips, examples and resources from the Wired Impact team and other nonprofit marketing experts. You’ll find links to top advice on topics like email design, strategy best practices, measurement, and list management.

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The Wired Wealthy Report – Convio

Millennial Donors Report 2011 – Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates

Segment Your Email List To Increase Open Rates [Data] – HubSpot