Engaging Volunteers with a Nonprofit Newsletter

Addison Van Auken
Aug 13, 2018 · 5 min read
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According to your inbox, it probably seems like everyone sends newsletters these days. But are they worth your organization’s valuable (and seemingly nonexistent) time?

We think so! Email newsletters are a great way to engage with volunteers and prospective donors. Traditionally, companies used newsletters to distribute official statements or snippets of news to targeted groups. As communications evolved, organizations found that newsletters delivered via email increased traffic and regular engagement with their websites. Today, newsletters are a cost-effective, versatile component of your marketing strategy. The goal of a newsletter is to turn recipients into subscribers and subscribers into customers (or volunteers, or donors!) by regularly engaging its audience.

Before you jump in, a bit of warning: newsletters have become such a popular marketing tool that they risk being forever lost in the depths of email inboxes. But a good newsletter, one that stands out from the crowd, is worth the effort. Here’s what a successful newsletter can do for your nonprofit:

  • forge direct connections with your supporters
  • give your nonprofit a voice
  • provide a platform for accountability

We have outlined some tips for writing newsletters that people will actually want to click on!

Define Your Goals

Are you looking to increase donations? Do you want to keep your best volunteers engaged? Are you hoping to become more visible in your community? Your newsletter should align with your organization’s marketing strategy and represent the collective voice of your nonprofit.

Remember, you’re a respected voice in your field. Plan to write about interesting topics that demonstrate your nonprofit’s expertise; readers will enjoy learning something new with each newsletter while you evoke a sense of accountability.

Focus Your Content

We know there’s just so much to write about, but one way newsletters flop is in their sheer randomness of composition. Rather than trying to appeal to the interests of everyone (resulting in a hodgepodge of disjointed information), find your niche and be intentional with the content you include. Decide on a central theme or message to guide each issue of your newsletter.

Like many nonprofits, United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) relies on the continued support of volunteers. UWSEM’s monthly newsletter, geared toward its agency partners and volunteers, forges a sense of community while maintaining meaningful communication.

Be Consistent

Newsletters work best when they become habitual. They must be sent regularly in order to maintain readership. UWSEM sends out a newsletter each month, and we believe a monthly distribution is a realistic goal. Publish too often and you may struggle to sustain your efforts; publish less frequently and readers may forget about you. To ensure that your newsletter is published on time each month, create a publication calendar, and plan to send it on the same day each month (maybe the first Tuesday morning of the month!).

Another great way to maintain readership is to include regular sections in your newsletter that readers can look forward to, such as a “Volunteer Spotlight” or “Upcoming Events.” UWSEM includes a volunteer spotlight to highlight the dedication and successes of volunteers. Your volunteer management software can help you determine who your most active volunteers are. If you choose to include an “upcoming events” section, make sure to link to your volunteer registration page.

Include a Call to Action

Encourage subscribers to engage with your newsletter by including a “call to action,” asking subscribers to do something. This may be as simple as “Check out what’s new,” “Share this newsletter with a friend,” or even “Read about this new volunteer opportunity.” Choose a primary call to action for each newsletter. Make sure it’s clear and eye-catching; use bright colors and larger header fonts for your most important items. If you’re asking volunteers to sign up for an event, include a button that links directly to your volunteer registration page. Completing the action should be made as convenient as possible for your subscriber.

Spread the News

Many successful newsletters include findings and news. If you choose to share important news with your readers, make sure it’s timely and relevant. Perhaps your organization provides afterschool art classes to children in your community; write about a study demonstrating the benefits of arts programs on childhood development. Your newsletter becomes educational and credible while supporting the work your nonprofit is doing. Set up Google Alerts to keep up to date on news that’s pertinent to you (bonus: you’ll save time on research).

Give Your Newsletter a Great Title

A witty title will add a touch of fun and marketability. Plus, a title will help you stand out in your readers’ inboxes. Check out this article for some nifty, noteworthy newsletter-naming strategies. (Hint: who doesn’t appreciate a little alliteration?)

Avoid Spammy Subject Lines

We’ve caught onto you, junk mail, and we’re not clicking! Nothing deters readers more than those hard-selling phrases like “percent off” or “help us” or “REMINDER!”, according to MailChimp. These subject lines feel impersonal because they usually take the form of ads sent to everyone. Instead, use subject lines that appeal to your unique audience. Include the title of your newsletter in your email subject, followed by a compelling “sneak peek” of what’s included in this month’s edition. Here’s an example of your newsletter title in conjunction with a captivating subject line:

The Community Corner: How one volunteer transformed Cleveland’s parks

Include Headings

Most of us are short on time, so we skim articles to decide if it’s worth our time to delve in. Headings are a great way to break up large chunks of text so that your readers can glance at sections before they explore further. Divide your newsletter into small chunks of text and include a heading in bold or a color that stands out. The goal is to catch the eye of your readers and invite them to keep reading, so make your headings punchy!

Link it

In every newsletter, provide links to your website. You want to turn readership into engagement with your organization, so give readers the information they need to access your site and learn more. Make sure you display a newsletter sign-up form clearly on your website (typically in the footer).

Don’t Go it Alone

Not a writer? No problem! Make your newsletter a volunteer opportunity. Use your volunteer software to find members in your community, from aspiring writers in high school to retired teachers who believe in your cause and can help create content.

In Conclusion

Writing newsletters each month can seem like a daunting task, but this is a valuable opportunity to share your nonprofit’s knowledge. Chances are, supporters will listen to what you have to say. Take the time to consider your audience and curate your newsletter contents accordingly. Your subscribers will feel like the newsletter was created just for them. Hey, they may even become your most engaged volunteers!

Want more ways to engage volunteers? Consider using a Galaxy Digital Connect platform for more effective volunteer recruiting, engagement, and management.

Addison Van Auken

Written by

Addison writes for Galaxy Digital, the best volunteer management software for 2018.

Galaxy Digital

Galaxy Digital builds stronger communities through simple technology that improves lives and connects people, organizations, and resources. #techforgood

Addison Van Auken

Written by

Addison writes for Galaxy Digital, the best volunteer management software for 2018.

Galaxy Digital

Galaxy Digital builds stronger communities through simple technology that improves lives and connects people, organizations, and resources. #techforgood

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