Last week I reached a bit of a milestone: I published edition number 300 of my daily nonprofit newsletter.

I’m not big on celebrations but I am big on learning opportunities. Publishing that many e-newsletters has taught me a thing or three. Here are ten email marketing lessons I’d like to share with you.

  1. Read, Read, Read

Every edition of my newsletter has four nonprofit related articles and 2 more funny, cringey or quirky items. To find that much information I read A LOT! I estimate that for every article I include I discard 2 others.

My goal is to bring subscribers content relevant to any nonprofit role they fill. That means including a wide range of topics from a large array of publications. If readers can learn and implement what’s written in the article/post, chances are good it will be included.

This is important to me because my promise to subscribers is: read, learn, implement, grow. I stay true to that with the content I publish.

Lesson: What content do your subscribers expect? Are you bringing them what you’ve promised?

  1. Feedback Is Encouraged

Some people pay lip service to it but I want and encourage feedback. Let me know where I messed up and how I can publish a better newsletter. You can take negative feedback personally or you can use it to better your publication.

I also encourage positive feedback which I’m glad to say is almost 100% of the emails I receive. I’m very proud of that! It allows me to know I’m hitting the mark.

Additionally, I answer every single email I get about the newsletter. If a subscriber took time to email me, then the least I can do is respond in a timely fashion and show gratitude.

Lesson: Ask for subscribers to contact you. Learning what they prefer and what they dislike only makes your content and marketing stronger.

  1. Style Matters

Since edition number 1 I’ve used the same format for my newsletter. I have asked subscribers and received feedback that the format is easy for them to skim and read. They find what they’re looking for and click.

Content matters but if your newsletter format is all over the place, it’s going to annoy readers. They get used to a certain layout.

Lesson: Consistency. Make changes to the layout when needed but try to keep it “familiar” for readers.

Your Daily Dose of Nonprofit newsletter banner

  1. Engage Your Readers

Passing along information is fine. But what if you engaged your readers and they start sending YOU content for inclusion?

Took time but I’m there. I encourage subscribers to send me content. Readers happily email (or tweet) content. Another chance for me to know what type of content subscribers are interested in finding in the email.

Lesson: This isn’t a one-way relationship. Email is a conversation. Just because they’re “subscribers” doesn’t mean you don’t have to engage them!

  1. Give Credit!

Through my newsletter I am able to introduce subscribers to experts in the nonprofit sector.

My goal: Connect subscribers to the top names in the sector. It’s impossible to know everyone so in my small way I’m trying to help people connect and network.

That all starts by giving credit where it’s due. When nonprofit specialists blog, I make sure to link to the article AND their Twitter or LinkedIn profile. A simple gesture but one that works.

Lesson: If you’re in a position to do so, be a connector!

  1. When Will We Get There?

One of the small features I added from the start was “estimated read time” for each article in the newsletter. I understand that people have limited time and by telling them in advance the reading time, I’m making their decision to click or not click a little easier.

You might say that that works against me: Articles that are “too long” will have fewer click thrus because people don’t have time. The data I have shows that’s not true. If the content is something they want to read, it’s better to alert them in advance that the article might not be a 2-minute read.

Lesson: It’s the little things! Find something small but helpful to enhance the reader’s experience.

300 editions of my nonprofit newsletter

  1. Less Self-Promotion, More Education

Look, I have a newsletter which people subscribe to. I could use it as an opportunity to constantly push my services. For me, the footer serves as my claxon.

I want the content to educate readers. Every now and then I’ll mention a service I offer if it’s relevant to a specific article. But if the newsletter becomes too promotion-y, subscribers will go. That’s not why they signed up.

I do include my weekly blog post and podcast episode. Though it is a back-door way to drive subscribers to my site, the blog and podcast serve as educational tools for people in the sector. Self-promotion? Yes. But I like to think it’s less “in your face.”

Lesson: If your organization or agency has a newsletter, bring value. That’s how you build a rapport with subscribers and when it’s time to display your services, they’ll respond.

  1. List Hygiene

If someone hasn’t opened your emails in the last 6 months, why are they still on your distribution list?

Maybe you want to tell the boss that your list has grown from 1,000 to 3,000 subscribers. Maybe that impresses management. But then the follow up questions: What about open rate? How about click thru rate?

You want a list that is active. People who are opening, reading and clicking. They’re taking action. This isn’t a game of who has the largest list. Quality over quantity when it comes to email marketing.

Also think down the road: What if you want to include ads in your emails? An advertiser won’t just care about the size. They want to know people are opening and clicking. List hygiene is a must.

Lesson: Every month I go thru my subscriber list and see who has not opened one of my emails in the last few months. Those people get moved to the archives.

  1. Add Your Value

With each article included in the newsletter, I add a few sentences with my thoughts or tips related to the subject matter. Free of charge. I have two decades of experience to lean on and I want to share what I’ve learned with subscribers.

Sometimes consultants are afraid to share value because they want to save it for paying customers. Guess what? You need to demonstrate that you offer value in order for people to consider hiring you!

Lesson: Totally worth it to add your own professional observations. Demonstrate expertise. Lean on your experience. Share your knowledge.

  1. An Unsubscribe Is Not The End Of the World

OK, at the outset I kinda did take it personally. After all, they signed up for my awesometastic newsletter and now they have the gall to unsubscribe?!

People will unsubscribe, just like you unsubscribe from various publications. Let it go.

Lesson: No seriously, let it go.

Year-end fundraising campaign time approaches. Is your website content prepared? Email marketing strategy ready to be implemented? Social media posts planned out? If your nonprofit wants to strengthen relationships with donors and raise more money, then your website, email and social media need to be in sync and ready to go when your campaign commences. 

Not sure how to pull it all together? Contact me and let’s plan a successful year-end campaign together!