For this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival, Kivi Leroux Miller is hosting a round-up of posts about the evolution of nonprofit newsletters. It must be fate, because we are in fact in the process of redesigning our newsletters right now. I’ll tell you about our process and experience.
Why a Redesign?
Our three newsletters – one a month for nonprofits, individual volunteers and responsible businesses – are a cornerstone of our communications program, and an important way we stay connected with those three audiences.
But we realized that despite our impressive lists, we were a long (long) way from achieving the potential engagement that a truly dynamic email marketing program could create for our communities. (Translation: our open, click-through and conversion rates were not high enough.)
Additionally, we felt that the newsletters, which reach hundreds of thousands of people each month, should reflect a shift that has taken place in the way we communicate in general: Focusing more on user-generated, community powered discussions and resources, more personalization and more localization. In this sense, the newsletters needed to catch up with how we as an organization have changed and matured over the past few years.
Prepping for a Redesign
We used the need for a new newsletter as an excuse to take a look at some other aspects of our email marketing:
Email Service Provider
We determined that the email service provider (ESP) we had been using no longer fit our needs – we needed more functionality, more capacity and more support. So we switched. (Quick tip: Don’t forget to ask vendors if they have a discount for nonprofits!)
We conducted a large-scale content survey late last year, asking all of our hundreds of thousands of subscribers how we can provide the most value for them with our newsletters. The results painted a pretty complete picture for us of what we should be including in our monthly mailings.
The Redesign Process
First, we conducted extensive research into best practices for email newsletters, and nonprofit email newsletters in particular. We looked at things like responsive design and mobile compatibility, image size and shape, font support, column numbers, and more. We also kept a file full of newsletter examples that we either loved or hated, as inspiration (I know you’re all wondering: Was mine in that file? Which part??)
Then we conducted no-judgment brainstorming sessions with key stakeholders within the organization. Issues that came up included:
- Our increasing integration of content across multiple social media platforms, and how our newsletters can be part of that system.
- Emphasis on the best parts of what we do, such as our Learning Center, our partnerships with responsible businesses, and the direct connection we make between the nonprofit and the volunteer.
- Telling the stories and showcasing the impact of our members.
- Our thought leadership activities at conferences, on our blogs and in the community.
We’re now working with designers (whose time is included in our ESP package) to put all those pieces together, and are eagerly anticipating completing this project within a few weeks.
We will use these new newsletters to do, in the end, what we’ve always tried to do with our newsletters: Provide valuable resources and opportunities for our network of nonprofits, volunteers and responsible businesses. Now we’ll just be doing it better.
Want to see what all the fuss is about? Sign up for our Nonprofit Newsletter here: