Segmenting Lists for Your Email Newsletter: Why and How

Segmenting Nonprofit Email Newsletter

Your email subscribers can be a tough bunch to please.  Some want to hear about volunteer opportunities.  Others want to know where their donation dollars have been going.  And some just want news that’s relevant to your cause.  Luckily there’s this thing called “segmenting” that can help you manage all these different groups.

Segmenting your nonprofit’s newsletter means breaking the list of your subscribers into separate sublists.  These sublists then allow your nonprofit to send out targeted email newsletters that might have a better chance of getting opened by their intended audiences.  However, segmenting might not be the best choice for every newsletter.  Consider the benefits and possible drawbacks outlined below.

Why You Should Consider Segmenting Your Newsletter Lists

Your nonprofit likely collaborates with a wide variety of people and other organizations.  Of the many benefits email newsletters offer, perhaps the most notable is to confirm and strengthen all of the relationships you’ve developed with your supporters.

But these relationships vary significantly, and just as you tailor your personal messages to your boss versus those to your mother, your nonprofit could benefit from tailoring its newsletters.  You might, for example, have very different messages to send to your sublist of volunteers versus your sublist of donors.

Segmenting your newsletter goes back to one of the cardinal rules of content writing: write to your audience.  By categorizing your audience based on their specific interests in your nonprofit, it will be easier to provide value to each separate audience.  For example, sending a personalized newsletter containing motivating photos and stories of impact from your last volunteer event to a sublist of those interested in volunteering might be enough to move them to action, to sign up for the next event.

Consider allowing subscribers to choose the type of content they’re most interested in when they sign up for the newsletter.  For instance, you may include some of the following:

  • Stories from the Community
  • Our Impact
  • Organizational News
  • Fundraising Campaigns
  • Volunteer Opportunities

Segmenting your subscribers based on what news updates they want to receive will help your nonprofit connect with its audience.  Successfully connecting with your audience is the first step to many other benefits, such as getting more email newsletters opened and ultimately inspiring more involvement with your nonprofit and its cause.

Some Drawbacks of Segmenting Your Email List

Segmenting your subscriber list into different categories might not work for every nonprofit.  While it can be beneficial, segmenting your newsletter also comes with some drawbacks.

  • More Content: In order to send personalized emails to each sublist of subscribers, your nonprofit will need to have a wider variety of content to choose from.   If your nonprofit has trouble coming up with content to include in newsletters, segmenting will only multiply this problem.
  • Time Commitment: Segmenting will involve a greater time commitment.  You’ll need more time to brainstorm the optimal number of sublists.  Time to curate targeted content. And time to figure out how to get each email address in the appropriate list, which will vary based on your email newsletter provider.  Some will allow you to email all current subscribers the option to choose their list affiliations and allow new users to select at signup.  Other services may make you sort current subscribers by hand.

It’s Okay to Overlap

Just because your volunteers may be more interested in photos and stories about the last volunteer event than in a donor profile does not mean they have no interest in donor profiles or donor activities.  Curate content targeted for each audience, but consider including other updates as well.  You never know when a donor will decide to become your next volunteer (or vice versa).

How To Segment Your Newsletter: Some Ideas for Sublists

The categories that you decide to break your nonprofit’s newsletter subscribers into will ultimately depend on the specifics of your nonprofit: your goals, your audience, your available content, etc.

Here are some general sublists that might work when segmenting your nonprofit’s email newsletter:

  • Donors
  • Major Donors
  • Volunteers
  • Local Subscribers
  • Organizations You Work With
  • Specific Interests of Your Subscribers

Segmenting your email newsletter is ultimately a decision you’ll need to make for your nonprofit.  The benefit is that segmenting allows you to write for your audience, giving you a greater chance to offer valuable content.  However, if your nonprofit doesn’t have the time to curate content for each targeted list, then segmenting your subscribers won’t be effective.

Does your nonprofit segment your newsletter list?  Have you seen changes in open rate, volunteer numbers, or donor involvement?  Do you have any advice for a nonprofit still deciding whether or not to segment their list?  I’d love to hear about your experience in the comment section below.

Related Reads

The Benefits of Sending Email Newsletters

Get More People to Open Your Nonprofit’s Email Newsletter

How to Get More People to Sign Up for Your Email Newsletter

Image courtesy of Wayne Wilkinson, Flickr