When your email opt-in form on the website only contains words like sign-up, monthly, newsletter, email, and updates, it’s no wonder people don’t submit their email.
Most nonprofits have a self-centred newsletter. It’s all about the organization. Which is understandable considering newsletters used to be the only real way for people get the news about an organization. But now that the attention of people is scattered online between thousands and thousands of websites, businesses, nonprofits, instagram accounts, and cat videos, we need to find new ways to stand out.
Instead of presenting your newsletter as updates about your organization, of which only your die-hard followers and supporters will want to read, you can make it chalk full of value for your reader. Content marketing, of which email is the core, means a new age of getting attention for nonprofits. Give people value to get permission to send them messages. Then through stories and relationship they will naturally become more engaged with you and want to help.
With just a simple mindset shift and a slightly different kind of content, you won’t have to ask for plain-old newsletter sign ups. You can ask for sign ups for an email “magazine”, for lack of a better term, and content that they will actually enjoy reading.
Selfless Content Strategies for Nonprofits
Let’s just elaborate on that for a minute before we go back to asking for signups. You likely have a few segments of ideal donors, volunteers, or recipients. These groups will have things in common, their interests, occupation, skills, etc. What if your newsletter included information like:
- How people could help make a difference on their own
- News about the industry or area that you’re involved in
- Other local events they would be interested in
- Something that would deepen their knowledge or teach them something
It doesn’t all have to be about you and what you are doing.
Okay now that we have that out of the way, you can now ask people to sign up for your informational, entertaining, and educational email magazine. And what does every good magazine have in common? They have a name. It’s not just called “Your Organization Newsletter”. This is a great way to emphasize the aspect of value, and not organization updates.
The 3 Levels of Nonprofit Newsletters
So let’s compare the difference. Level 1 is the bare minimum that most nonprofits are stuck at, they ask “Sign up for our newsletter here”.
Level 2 is a much better alternative. “Sign up for our email magazine, [name of it] for monthly articles, resources, tips on how to get involved, and organization updates”.
And level 3 is the ultimate goal, which brings us to a call to action like, “Receive a free guide on [3 innovative ways to teach your kids how to recycle] when you sign up for our monthly email magazine, [name]”.
To get to level three you now offer something immediate in exchange for their email address and name. This is commonly referred to as a “lead magnet” in the business world. This gets you away from just your donors and volunteers signing up for your newsletter, and starts making it more appealing to strangers who come to your website.
By now you should be able to see why having a great email strategy should be your core, and will help influence your overall content strategy. Everything feeds into and branches from your email list and newsletters. Turning up your strategy to level 2, making it a broader magazine means it’s time to start content marketing by at least creating regular articles outside of your organization’s news. And level 3 allows you to create even more value as an immediate incentive to get outsiders interested in receiving your great content.
We all believe you’re doing great things, trying to make a bigger impact, which takes people and money. You can now use emails to inspire and build deeper relationships. Gradually they will be more interested to help you make that impact. The more engaging and unique your emails are, the more you gain their attention and keep them thinking about what you do.
Your goal should be to create content and email newsletters that are so valuable that people want them on their own regardless of what your organization does. Give people a reason to sign up for your newsletter by filling it full of amazing content, tell them about what they can expect, and then push it even further by creating an immediate incentive.
So instead of asking people to receive your newsletter, ask yourself instead, what can I create that people would be excited to receive? Build it. Then share it.