There’s nothing inherently wrong with the word “newsletter.” Unless that’s not really what you’re offering. Many organizations are selling themselves (and their content) short by hiding it behind a lackluster name that only vaguely describes its worth. Nonprofits can use their newsletter names to attract and engage subscribers by better demonstrating relevance and value.
Newsletter or Snooze-letter
It’s become standard practice for charities to provide print and email newsletters as a way to communicate upcoming events, organizational changes and fundraising successes. While a bite-size chunk of that business-as-usual information is necessary, it doesn’t offer strong storytelling opportunities and content that works for fundraising. Snooze.
If this is where you are with your newsletter efforts, keep going! A ho-hum name isn’t your biggest challenge, and we have some additional ideas for newsletter articles that might help. But if you’ve been consistently sending great content and looking for ways to entice more readers, let’s talk about naming.
In addition to good design and great content, focusing on newsletter names is one way to stand out from the crowd. Assuming your marketing goals rely on educating and cultivating newsletter recipients (and how could they not?), we’ve identified three ways to think about making a change and real examples of each approach.
Newsletter Names Based on Content
You’re asking different things—and on different timelines— when you send an action alert versus program news or impact stories. If you send multiple types of emails, using accurate names gives your audience a better way to filter information and avoid a sense of communications overload that leads to unsubscribes.
The Wisconsin Wetlands Association offers three newsletters, including a general weekly update (Wetland News), time-sensitive issues (Wetland Alerts) and one with information for landowners (My Healthy Wetland).
The Latin American Youth Center sends out a newsletter focused on their youth programs and participants (Youth Beat) as well as emails for press releases and volunteer alerts.
Newsletter Names Based on Audience
Motivate recipients to open your newsletter by choosing a name that accurately describes why they are receiving it. This is especially important if you send more than one newsletter based on subscriber interests or other segmented lists. Similarly, if your nonprofit offers a newsletter as a perk for members, or if you have a special newsletter just for advocates or volunteers, give it a name that showcases this exclusivity and specific connection to your cause.
Community Foundation Sonoma County makes it super easy to select the newsletter that’s right for their audiences, offering Greater Good for Nonprofits, Greater Good for Donors and Greater Good for Advisors.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano created a special email newsletter just for those interested in their advocacy efforts called HungerFighters.
Newsletter Names for Branding
There’s certainly value in choosing a newsletter name that helps with your organization’s overall name recognition, like the “Arts Council Newsletter.” But you can also take it another step and look to your nonprofit’s vocabulary — the words of your mission, vision, values and service area — to creatively brand your newsletter and consistently remind readers what you stand for.
Disclaimer: Coming up with a clever name is where marketers tend to have a lot of fun! If it fits your brand to be more creative or bold, then it can work for your newsletter. But the truth is, a pun-y, cute or fun-to-say name only works when you’ve met branding and relevance criteria, too.
Crane River Chronicles is the newsletter for Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary, a name that references their location in Nebraska that’s also iconic for birders, their target audience.
Homes for Our Troops named their newsletter Foundations, which uses terminology that’s relevant to their mission (building adapted houses for veterans) and communicates their impact in rebuilding lives.
Tips for Making a Change
The process for choosing and implementing a newsletter name can vary widely depending on the size and structure of your organization, but there are three standard things to keep in mind:
- Think twice about a public naming contest. You might think it will be a fun way to get your constituents involved, but choosing a name should be largely strategic. Your external audiences don’t know your internal preferences and limitations. You don’t want to disappoint your participants or spend a ton of time justifying your decision.
- Choose a date and prepare for a final switch. When is it most feasible to update the places where you use (or would like to use) the new name? If you don’t have another newsletter scheduled for at least a month, make that publication date your goal and work backward to get your pieces ready in time. See more about showcasing names below.
- Don’t worry too much about announcing it. Talking at length about the name of your publication puts you on a fast track to a snooze-letter. Stick to a brief update that explains how the name better represents your mission, your readers and/or the content you share—and then move on to your awesome articles!
Where to Showcase the Name
Once you’re done naming your newsletter, it’s time to put it to work and grow your list. In addition to including it the design of your email, consider how it’s used in promotion, too.
- Encourage new subscriptions by including the newsletter name and a brief description on your website’s sign up forms. And don’t forget about putting it on the good ol’ clipboard sign up sheet at your community events!
- Remind your staff to use the name internally and with the public to help build name recognition. Example: “Hey, did you see the latest issue of the Arts Advocate Weekly?”
- Depending on the format and distribution of your print newsletter, you could plug the name on an outer envelope or make use of your self-mailer’s outer panels by announcing that “Your copy of ____ is here!”
- Is your newsletter a special perk for people that become donors or members? Include it by name in your list of benefits to reinforce its value.
Caution: Names in Email Subject Lines
I get a lot of emails from nonprofits with subjects lines that are similar to “July Newsletter.” For your most dedicated supporters, that could be enough for them to open it. For new subscribers and leads that are less warm, the name (and your subject line creativity) could be putting a damper on your readership. Research tells us that 33% of your email audience will open based solely on the subject line! Try teasing out the title or subject of your lead story instead.
Are you ready to take the leap and move beyond “newsletter” to spread the word? If all you can muster right now is a little consistency and good content, then you’re already doing a great job with your nonprofit newsletter. The name can wait. But for those of you wanting to boost your publication in a way that reinforces your brand and promotes the value of your content, exploring better newsletters names is a way to help you reach your goals that’s often overlooked.
Still wondering how to name your newsletter? Let’s talk in the comments. And if you’ve seen a newsletter name that inspired you to subscribe, I’d love to hear about it!