BlogMarketing How to Write a Newsletter Your Members Will Actually Want to Read Marketing How to Write a Newsletter Your Members Will Actually Want to Read Author: Terry Ibele February 1, 2018 Contents 🕑 4 min read This is a guest blog post by Tobi Johnson, a leading expert in volunteer engagement and the presenter of our webinar on how to find volunteers in a digital world. Click here to watch Tobi’s webinar. Does your digital member newsletter have low engagement? If so, you’re not alone. Creating a newsletter that people want to read isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. In fact, many organizations I know write newsletters that their members actually look forward to. In this post, I’m going to cover the root cause of low newsletter engagement and practical tips to create a newsletter that improves your members’ experience. The first thing we need to acknowledge is that simply communicating online through things like digital newsletters tends to cause people to feel disconnected. Researchers call this the Connectivity Paradox — the more connected we become, the more isolated we begin to feel. This distance grows the more we rely on virtual communications — whether we work in co-located or far-flung teams. This applies to volunteers, paid staff, and members alike. The Digital Disconnect Digital communications present major roadblocks to forming the deep relationships necessary to work together effectively. Unfortunately, the ability to work together effectively is vital to most membership-based organizations. Expert Karen Sobel-Lojeski, has identified this gap as “Virtual Distance” — and when Virtual Distance is highest, online engagement is lowest: Innovative behaviors fall by over 90% Trust declines by over 80% Cooperative and helping behaviors go down by over 80% Role and goal clarity decline by 75% Project success drops by over 50% Organizational commitment and satisfaction decline by more than 50% Clearly, this can have a major impact on a membership organization’s productivity. The good news is that research offers clues as to how to respond in a strategic way. Read More:7 Proven Ways to Increase Member Retention Right Now What the Research Says About Virtual Distance Scholars have identified the following three subsets of “Virtual Distance” . A closer look at each one reveals which ones have an impact on digital engagement: Physical Distance – Location issues related to space and time (e.g., teams working in different time zones) Operational Distance – Psychological gaps that grow due to issues that arise in workplace (e.h., unresolved conflict) Affinity Distance – The emotional disconnects between team members due to lack of relationship formation and development (e.g., lack of face-to-face teambuilding); the most important to address Human behavior is strongly driven by emotions, and relationships matter. So, it’s not surprising that, of the three, addressing Affinity Distance in your email newsletters will have the most impact. Affinity Distance is further broken into four subsets (see chart below). Using Strategic Newsletter Content to Reduce Affinity Distance One way to reduce Affinity Distance in your newsletters is by strategically aligning the topics you cover. By intentionally including content aimed at reducing Affinity Distance, organizations can boost the perception of closeness, build trust, and help educate volunteers and members about their shared stake. Below are four subcategories of Affinity Distance, a description of each, and suggestions for topics that help build relationships within each domain. Cultural Distance Description: Relates to values and communications styles more than demographics Strategic Newsletter Topics: What We Believe Our Values in Action Reminders About Group Norms Glossary of Slang Words Relationship Distance Description:Lack of shared history, including friends of friends Strategic Newsletter Topics: Organization’s “Birth” Story Friends in Common Neighborhood News Team Report Outs Team Photos Social Distance Description: Recognition based on formal (positional) status versus informal (contributional) status; important for building trust Strategic Newsletter Topics: Introductions of New Members Kudos for Strong Effort Congratulations for Results Org Chart & Who Does What Read More: How to Set Up a Membership Directory With Photos on Your Site Interdependence Description: Sense of shared future and fate, equal stake in outcomes Strategic Newsletter Topics: Current Team Action Plans Member Polls & Surveys Org’s Annual Highlights “How We Did It” Stories Customer Testimonials/Stories It’s Your Turn The next time you plan topics for your member newsletter, think about how you can reduce emotional disconnects and boost relationships with your readers through the content you feature. You can also expand this approach to other digital communications such as social media posts and website content and see what happens to your team’s overall sense of human connection. If you want to learn about more digital strategies to engage your members and volunteers, you may be interested in watching my free webinar, “Need Volunteers? Four Tech Trends You Need to Know“. Sign up here. Additional Resources: Nonprofit Newsletter vs. Nonprofit Blog: Which Will Bring More Success (WildApricot.com) 7 Irresistible Incentives to Grow Your Nonprofit Email List (WildApricot.com) 40 (Email) Newsletter Templates, Tips & Examples For 2018 (Venngage.com) Technology and Todays Volunteers (TobiJohnson.com) The Power of Gratitude (TobiJohnson.com) Topics for Your Member Newsletter (CampaignMonitor.com) Tobi Johnson, MA, CVA is an internationally recognized trainer, author, speaker, and expert in volunteer engagement. She is the President and founder of VolunteerPro, an online learning and networking community for leaders of volunteers and Tobi Johnson & Associates, a consultancy that helps organizations build capacity and strengthen their volunteer strategy. Related Marketing Articles Marketing 🕑 18 Min Read The Complete Guide to Nonprofit Email Marketing Tatiana Morand This Week Marketing 🕑 6 Min Read The Best Social Media Tools for Nonprofits in 2023 Terry Ibele Sep 15, 2023 Marketing 🕑 9 Min Read How to Power Up Your Marketing With Member Text Messages: 5 Examples Sonia Urlando Jul 26, 2023 The Membership Growth Report: Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents Get the report now!