We’ve written before about how to format your email newsletter, get it opened and build a strategy, but all the trappings and trimmings of a great nonprofit newsletter won’t mean a thing if you don’t have valuable content to offer your audience.
So what sorts of things should you be putting in your newsletter to keep your nonprofit’s subscribers engaged and interested? Here are a few ideas, along with helpful tips and nonprofit newsletter examples for inspiration.
Prioritize Value Over Quantity
When you’re feeling stuck about what to put in a nonprofit newsletter, there’s a tendency to focus on the number of articles you have to share rather than the quality of the content and the value that your subscribers will get from it.
There’s no magic number of stories that you have to include. Instead of shooting for a set formula each time, ask yourself these questions as you brainstorm nonprofit newsletter ideas:
- Does this newsletter offer something of value? Did we include content that’s either new and interesting, or helpful and actionable?
- Did we provide enough information that readers can (and will be motivated to) take the next step in our marketing funnel?
- Have we fulfilled the promise we made to people when asking for them to sign up to receive our newsletter? For example: sharing the latest news and ways to get involved
Prioritizing the value of what you put in your newsletter helps you identify and select the pieces of content that are most important for your target audience. In the grand scheme of things, that’s what keeps your subscribers coming back for more.
10 Newsletter Content Ideas for Nonprofits
Let’s dive into our top ten nonprofit newsletter ideas, which you can turn to again and again. Using a combination of different content types keeps your emails fresh and interesting and frees you up from having to follow the same plan each time you sit down to write.
Feature Updates About Your Organization
It is a newsletter after all. What has your nonprofit been up to? Have you reached a goal, hosted an event, expanded your operation? Have you revised your mission statement or altered how you use donations? Share your obstacles. Share your success stories.
But keep your readers in mind. Past donors want to hear about how their money is making a difference. Volunteers want to hear about programs or events that they invested their time in to help them succeed. Tailor your news updates to the audience you’re writing for.
Newsletter Example: Oceans North
Check out the Oceans North email newsletter to see how the organization celebrates and provides organizational updates in a way that’s both inspiring and succinct.
Showcase Your Supporters
One of the main reasons to create a newsletter is to build and maintain relationships. One way to do this is by recognizing the people who contribute to your nonprofit’s success. Who are your donors? Why did they get interested in your nonprofit? What motivated them to contribute? Discover the story behind some donations. And share these stories with your readers.
And donors aren’t the only people who contribute to your nonprofit. Profile a volunteer who went above and beyond. Not only will this gesture show your appreciation of current volunteers, but profiles and stories like these might also inspire others to volunteer at your nonprofit’s next event or contribute in any way they can.
Newsletter Example: Bladder Cancer Canada
See how Bladder Cancer Canada put together a fundraiser spotlight to share in their newsletter as a way to celebrate their supporters and include a subtle call for donations.
Make a Call for Volunteers
Every newsletter you send is an opportunity to make a compelling call to action. While the standard appeal is to make a donation, don’t forget to feature other ways of getting involved. Present readers with specific ways to volunteer and why their service is important. Then direct potential volunteers to your website to learn more and sign up!
Newsletter Example: Donate Life Northwest
The Donate Life Northwest newsletter gives readers multiple ways to get involved, from getting trained as a volunteer to signing up for specific opportunities.
Offer Stories of Impact
Keep your subscribers interested in and impressed by your nonprofit’s work with recent stories of impact. Compose your nonprofit’s most recent successes into stories that inspire your readers. Focus on the most engaging parts of your story and provide links to your website for your nonprofit newsletter readers who want to find out more.
After you’ve written these stories, take a step back and try to reread them from an outside perspective. Ask yourself, do I care about the people and organization in this story? Do I connect with them emotionally?
Newsletter Example: End Youth Homelessness
This End Youth Homelessness newsletter offers a diversity of content that speaks to the need for the nonprofit’s work and the impact of their member organizations, including stats and a story.
Curate Articles from Around the Web
Keep in mind that you don’t have to write all of the content in the entire nonprofit newsletter. There is significant value to being a good content curator.
Your subscribers are looking to you as an expert in your field. Add articles from outside sources that you think provide valuable information. You can then add a brief introduction to the article link outlining your thoughts on how this article affects nonprofits in general or your nonprofit in particular.
Newsletter Example: Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y)
The Y2Y newsletter is as visually appealing as it is informative. In this example, the last section of the issue offers a well-curated list of recommended reading and podcasts.
Highlight Your Media Coverage
In addition to articles from around the web, feel free to link to news articles (including audio and video pieces) that put a spotlight on your organization or the larger cause. If you think the piece warrants explanation or celebration, add a short note about your reaction to the story and what it means for your nonprofit’s work.
Newsletter Example: Center for Responsible Travel
The Center for Responsible Travel newsletter is full of information, but its structured design allows readers to jump to sections of interest. Head to the Media & Outreach section to see how they share the latest developments and coverage.
Tease and Link Blog Posts
There’s no reason to rack your brain for new content when you already have quality content at your fingertips. Include teasers from your nonprofit’s most recent blog posts in the newsletter. Not only will this help round out your nonprofit’s newsletter, but it also might expand that blog post’s reach, connecting with readers who might have missed it when it was first published.
Newsletter Example: Operation Noah
The Operation Noah newsletter rounds up a long list of recent activities, including a section that highlights the latest blog posts with short summaries and links to read the full posts.
Provide a Helpful Resource
Including a resource that your audience will enjoy, share or find immediately useful is a quick way to add value to your nonprofit newsletter. Depending on your mission, you might suggest a list of recommended reading, healthy recipe, advocacy toolkit, funding opportunity, research report, Pinterest board or Facebook group, webinar or another resource that’s freely available.
Newsletter Example: The Campaign for College Opportunity
The Publications section of this newsletter from The Campaign for College Opportunity gives subscribers a chance to access a recent report as well as a recording of a webinar that offers additional insights for those who are interested.
Promote Your Upcoming Events
Your email newsletter is a great place to spread the word about future events your nonprofit might be planning. Include all the exciting details: the great location, the delicious food, the fun and games – whatever has made your nonprofit’s past events successful. Show the audience why they won’t want to miss what your nonprofit has in store for its next event.
And, of course, direct them to your website to complete next steps like online event registration or ticket purchases.
Newsletter Example: Jewish Federation of St. Louis
With lots to share and events to feature, the newsletter of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis does a great job offering key information about where and when paired with visuals.
Share Relevant Community Events
Your nonprofit newsletter doesn’t have to be all about you. You are no doubt a part of a strong and supportive community, and your newsletter is a great medium to reciprocate that goodwill.
As you curate content from within your nonprofit, keep an eye out for events in the community that like-minded supporters might be interested in attending. Showing your support for local events is a great way to demonstrate your nonprofit’s involvement in the community, not to mention helping to spread awareness for your nonprofit’s cause.
Newsletter Example: Gates Foundation Discovery Center
In this newsletter from the Gates Foundation Discovery Center, the organization includes a chronological list of events happening in the community that readers might be interested in along with links to learn more.
More Nonprofit Newsletter Best Practices
Feeling ready to write? In all of the content planning mayhem, don’t neglect some other parts of sending great nonprofit newsletters. Growing and maintaining your mailing list, sticking to a sending schedule, and keeping accessibility in mind are all complementary to what you’re hoping to achieve with stellar copy. Here are some additional reads to point you in the right direction:
- 5 Common Nonprofit Email Newsletter Mistakes to Avoid
- 5 Scary Things That Happen When You Grow Your Newsletter List
- Nonprofit Newsletter Best Practices to Drive Traffic From Email
- The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Emails
Access Our Nonprofit Newsletter Library
Get on the right track with your email newsletter using tips and resources from nonprofit experts. Find links to advice on topics like design, strategy, measurement and list management.
The people subscribing to your nonprofit newsletter are already interested in what your nonprofit is up to. Don’t mess that up by sending them junk. Keep them informed with news updates, outside articles and internal blog posts. Keep them connected with donor highlights and volunteer profiles. Inspire them with stories of impact. Above all, make sure that your newsletter provides genuine value.
Do you ever have trouble generating content to fill your nonprofit’s newsletter? What advice would you add? Or do you subscribe to a great nonprofit newsletter? What do you love about it? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Originally published on 10/3/12. Updated with new resources, examples and tips on 10/20/21.