When I’m working with clients, I frequently get questions about how to make their nonprofit newsletters track better. Low open and engagement rates that aren’t even worth tracking can make your newsletter seem worthless. But I assure you, if it’s done correctly, it’s NOT worthless. A newsletter is your way to stay in touch with your audience. They’ve opted in to receive it, so you should most certainly give them what they want.

But, like anything else, you can’t phone it in. Don’t just include information they can pull from other resources. Make your content unique and eye-catching, and I guarantee you’ll get some traction. Here are a few of my tips to sprucing up your nonprofit newsletter:


Make your subject line enticing.

Putting the name of your organization and “Whatever Month Newsletter” sounds like a snoozefest…which leads me to believe your content is probably super boring too. Put a little spunk in that subject line (but remember to keep it short): a headline from your content (a super cool accomplishment, a new hire, a new partnership); a statistic related to your organization; an appropriate pop culture reference; or even a song lyric.


Pick a theme.

Sometimes, having one or two general themes for your newsletter can help you keep your content streamlined and straightforward. Bouncing around from topic to topic can overwhelm the reader – especially if you have 10 different headlines. Try to keep your content focused and clickable (i.e. share the synopsis of the content you want to share and then link to either a landing page or a document that holds the rest of the info).


KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Simplicity in a newsletter is KEY. There’s something about having to scroll through an email that you didn’t totally know was coming that is not only annoying, but kind of arrogant. Sure, I support your organization. But everyone gets a ton of emails. So what is it that you actually want me to know or engage with? If you feel your newsletters getting to be a little…heavy…perhaps consider splitting them up into smaller chunks. Less is more when it comes to content.


Use images.

I am very pro-infographic for storytelling. The only down sides here are: email programs that don’t automatically download an image; mobile translation/capabilities; and, of course, finding a way to keep your design simple enough so that it both translates on all devices, but also actually tells the full story. If you can find this sweet spot, infographics are the way to go!


Add something entertaining.

Content that you include in your newsletter doesn’t always have to be original (if you credit those who deserve the credit). Study the demographics to determine what things they like and find entertaining. I saw a newsletter for a branding company whose team members are obsessed with cat videos. In their newsletter, they share a cat video of the week. Does their organization have anything to do with cats or animals? Nope – but cat videos are funny and I’m probably going to watch whatever they’ve sent.


And finally, evaluate what works.

In the world of newsletters, you’ll never know unless you try. Slowly introduce new concepts into your newsletter and then watch what happens with your open rates and your engagement rates. If you don’t see any significant changes no matter what, perhaps it’s time for an audience survey.


Do you have a favorite newsletter? Share it with us in the comments!