Graphic with envelope icons coming out of and surrounding a computer representing sending a newsletter to members

From Inbox to Impact: Elevate Your Nonprofit Newsletter

When you check your emails or even your old-fashioned mailbox, you quickly scan for things of interest and delete or toss anything that doesn’t make the cut. However, there is often one email or mail piece you look forward to and need to stay informed. Your association’s goal is to create THAT type of newsletter—one that members find useful and eagerly anticipate. Here are some elements and strategies you can incorporate to create a desirable newsletter for your members.

Before diving into what a successful newsletter looks like, assess your current approach. Identify what type of content is performing well as a starting point. Begin by reviewing the current engagement with your newsletter. Focusing on e-newsletters specifically, review past issues to determine your average open and click-through rates. Open rates refer to the number of opened emails compared to the number sent, while click-through rates refer to engagement with linked content relative to successful email deliveries. Constant Contact, as of April 2024, reports that Non-Profits have an average open rate of 42.80%, a click rate of 2.34%, and a bounce rate of 11.01% (bounce rate meaning unsuccessful email delivery compared to delivered). How does your newsletter currently compare to these statistics? If your email performance significantly varies from these averages, it might be time to holistically re-evaluate your content.

Most marketing email providers offer detailed statistics, which vary depending on the service you use. You should be able to open your most recent newsletters and see what links and sections are the most popular by click performance. This will give you a good idea of what types of content to keep and what to consider removing.

Now that you have your temperature check, consider incorporating the following five strategies into your association’s newsletter.

Share Content that’s Valuable to Your Members

Curate content that is relevant to your members and their interests. Members should feel they are receiving value from their dues. Communicate unique information that only your association can provide. You can also involve your volunteers or content experts. Consider creating a rotating section like a “Tip of the Week” or a Q&A for common questions. Engage members further by including a feedback form for future content suggestions. Remember, interests can shift over time, so conduct periodic surveys to stay in tune with what members want.

Stick to a Schedule

Keep your members looking forward to your newsletter by maintaining a consistent schedule. Your email service provider should show you what times of day members open emails. Do members prefer reading your newsletter as part of their morning routine or in the evening? Meet them where they are.

Keep Design Minimalistic

Ensure your emails are easy to scan and digest. Avoid clutter by paring down extraneous information, introducing plenty of white space, and using distinct headings between topics. Abbreviated content encourages members to click through to your website or other resources to see the rest.

Craft Compelling Subject Lines

Clever and intriguing subject lines are crucial for catching your members’ attention so they open the message. Keep them short and to the point, using action words or personalization when appropriate.

Testing and Trust

You will likely go through several iterations to find what resonates most with your members. Use A/B testing to determine the most effective subject lines or send times by sending one segment of your audience one version and another segment a slightly different version, then comparing performance.

Trust is also key. These communications are an important part of the relationship you are building with your members. Ensure that they can rely on the information you send is accurate and that if they no longer want the newsletter, the options to unsubscribe or manage preferences are transparent and easy to use.

There are many ways to enhance your newsletters. These strategies are just a starting point for making your association’s newsletter one that members want!

Picture of Ashley Shank, CAE

Ashley Shank, CAE

Ashley Shank, CAE joined RGI in 2017, bringing a background of experience in training, education and human resources to her role as Senior Education & Membership Coordinator. She is a graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a concentration in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She also has a certificate in Human Resource Management.