How to create a charity email newsletter
Creating a charity email newsletter may seem like a daunting task. Choosing an email system, deciding on newsletter content and finding subscribers may sound difficult, but newsletters can drive valuable engagement amongst supporters, donors and service users. With a little planning, the process is simple and deliver a great return on investment for your charity.
Choosing an email provider
Deciding on an email provider can be tricky for non-technical people, so it makes sense to involve the person who looks after the charity's website or Facebook page. It's tempting to use a regular email client, such as Hotmail or Googlemail, but using a dedicated email sending program can give you rich insights that will ultimately enable you to send better email newsletters.
Initially at least, it is worthwhile considering a free email sending program initially such as MailChimp or TargetHero. This will minimise the financial commitment, but will also provide you with a wealth of tools such as tracking and templates optimised for multiple devices (such as desktops, tablets and smartphones). Many of these systems also benefit from simple drag and drop editors, making it easy for most people to create a newsletter.
Deciding on content
Think about what has gone on in your charity over the last month - talk about the success of fundraising events, decisions from committee meetings or burning topics that donors and supporters would be interested to know more about.
It's important to talk about what's coming up too. Make your recipients aware of events and key dates for the diary, or if you are in need of donations of some form (for example, prizes for a tombola). Also include details of the impact donations have had on your service users or cause; this will keep readers interested and improve the prospects of them becoming a regular donor.
When drafting content, try to keep things concise and interesting. If a piece of news is too long to put in an email, think about positing it on the charity's website and linking to it directly from the newsletter (if your charity doesn't have a website, read our five steps to building a website for your charity).
Deciding on frequency and sending times
We all know how much of a burden junk mail is, which is why you shouldn't send your charity newsletter too often. Once every three to six weeks tends to be the optimal timeframe, however you may want to increase frequency at key times of year (for example, if you run a community food bank and are particularly busy at Christmas).
Deciding the time to send an email is just as important as the frequency. This is a trial and error process, but take a best-guess at when your service users and supporters would be most likely to read it. If most of them work, try sending it in the morning so you are at the top of their inbox. If the majority are retired, test whether they prefer to receive it on a weekday or at the weekend.
Growing your mailing list
You can only send the newsletter to contacts that have opted in to receive marketing communications or updates from you. This might be limited at first, so ask service users if they would be interesting in receiving it, and at your next fundraising event have someone inviting supporters to sign up to the newsletter.
Once you've decided on the frequency of your newsletter, come up with some ideas for what could be included in each edition. Is there an awareness week themed around your charity's cause (such as Carers Week or Dyslexia Awareness Week) that you could mention in a newsletter? Do you have events planned for certain months, such as a fun run? If you support the elderly, could you produce a useful article on applying for winter fuel allowances? Planning ahead will help you formulate the majority of your newsletter's core content topics, which can be supplemented with relevant news pieces at the time.
Once your first few newsletters have gone out, take a look at the reports in your email program. Which news stories are people clicking on? Is there a time of day which provided the most email opens? This information can help you refine your email newsletter to suit your recipients and, ultimately, better serve your charity.
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