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How To Write An Amazing Nonprofit Newsletter + 8 Inspiring Examples

Author: Tatiana Morand
February 24, 2020
🕑 13 min read

There are a lot of ways your organization can promote the great activities you’re doing while engaging your volunteers and members.

So how do you pick which one is right for you?

For Mark and Joanne, who ran a kids’ summer camp, it was a big decision.

Since they had limited time for promotion, they wanted to make sure they’d be able to choose a channel that would be as effective as possible for them.

But they also wanted to make sure it would allow them to share the stories of all the kids who participated in their camp — something they weren’t sure social media would do to the extent they wanted.

After lots of research and brainstorming what the best way to keep clients, donors, and other potential supporters informed would be, they decided on a nonprofit newsletter.

So, why did they decide on an email newsletter — and how can you get it to work for you?

In this post, we’ll cover:

Why a Nonprofit Newsletter Might be the Right Promotional Channel For You

When you keep your subscribers in the loop, it keeps your mission in the front of their mind. By providing timely content and organizational updates, a newsletter is a perfect way to keep your organization’s followers updated about all the great work you’re doing.

Your newsletter is central to giving your subscribers timely updates about how you’re developing your mission and operations — updates that can help them feel more involved and engaged with everything you’re doing.

Let’s start with a few examples of great nonprofit newsletters and what you can learn from them, before diving into the important steps to creating an effective newsletter.


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8 Nonprofit Newsletters to Keep You Inspired

While there are many examples of amazing email newsletters, here are a few from nonprofits large and small to get you motivated as you start creating yours!

1. NPR

nonprofit newsletter

NPR’s newsletter features highlighted stories and articles that might be of interest to the recipient. With featured images that catch the eye, and a wide variety of stories that the reader can check out, this newsletter takes the approach of reminding readers what they can provide in the form of recent stories and diversity of topics.

How You Can Do The Same: Share content from your nonprofit’s blog and other relevant stories to get your subscribers clicking back to your website. This way, they can build a deeper connection with your content.


2. Cedar Park Neighbors

Cedar Park Neighbors

This newsletter from Cedar Park Neighbors starts with a fun fact or trivia challenge at the top of the email  — it’s unrelated to the nonprofit’s work but is meant to entertain or educate the reader, warming them up for the rest of the newsletter’s content. Because this nonprofit has a lot of events, the next section lists the upcoming important dates, followed by dedicated sections for each event and links to more information.

How You Can Do The Same: Start your newsletter with something quick and fun to grab your reader’s attention. It can be relevant to your nonprofit’s work, related to something trending in the news or on social media, or acknowledging a holiday or important date. For example, Cedar Park Neighbours sent the above newsletter in the last week of February 2020 and used the occasion to engage their readers in a bit of fun leap year trivia.


3. Edesia


This newsletter from Edesia begins with a powerful photo and goes on to tell the story of the girl in the photo and how the organization was able to help her and thousands of children like her. The letter also mentions and links to a video that showcases their work in action.

How You Can Do The Same: Include personal stories in your newsletter as much as possible — they can be a powerful way to establish an emotional connection with the reader and inspire them to take action. If possible, compliment the stories with photos and video footage. The video that Edesia sent in this newsletter was a 30 second cellphone video from someone who was helping load boxes of nutritional bars onto a truck in Sudan. This is a great reminder that your videos don’t have to cost thousands of dollars to produce to have impact — something as simple as a cellphone video straight from the front lines can be just as, if not more, powerful.

4. American Red Cross

nonprofit newsletterThis American Red Cross newsletter includes featured images from a recent event and an update on organizational news. It highlights ways that subscribers were able to get engaged with the Red Cross, as well as making great use of the panel in the middle of the page promoting the Red Cross Emergency App. The layout of the newsletter is easy to follow as well, as the side panel outlines what the newsletter contains and where the reader can find what they’re looking for.

How You Can Do The Same: Include ways your supporters have gotten involved in the past. Who knows — you might motivate future volunteers or donors to do the same!

PS: want more information on how to create the newsletter of your dreams? Check out this on-demand webinar on using content to grow your organization! 

5. Habitat for Humanity

nonprofit newsletter

This Habitat for Humanity newsletter from the organization’s St. Louis chapter checks off all of the boxes for what makes a successful nonprofit newsletter. It has links to all of the organization’s social media accounts at the top of the newsletter to encourage further engagement. It lists upcoming events, recent organization updates, and offers multiple ways that recipients can be further involved with the organization. It also makes great use of space on the side panel to thank donors and provide a testimonial. A simple design helps make all of this information readable and easily processed.

How You Can Do The Same: Don’t worry about including a fancy design in your newsletter. It can be minimal as long as the content is all valuable and relevant to your subscribers.

6. New York Public Library

nonprofit newsletter

The New York Public Library’s newsletter offers further engagement with using the library itself. Titled, “NYPL Top Picks,” the newsletter includes updates on recent news from the library system, book recommendations, and events. The book recommendation content drives further reader engagement by encouraging library members to come back to the library and check out some of the recommended reads.

How You Can Do The Same: Include content that will drive readers to re-engage with your program. For example, Mark and Joanna could include a section on “Easy Kids’ Games For the Season” in every newsletter, which could then encourage parents to join their activities.

7. Sierra Club

nonprofit newsletter

The Sierra Club newsletter starts off with a message from the Chair, adding a personal touch to a newsletter from a large organization. It reviews all of the work that the nonprofit has accomplished in the past year and sets goals to accomplish in the next year. This newsletter does a good job of making the reader feel like they are an essential part of the organization’s mission and achievements, as well as keeping the reader up to date on what the nonprofit is prioritizing and where their donations are going.

How You Can Do The Same: Include a brief section within your newsletter that covers what goals you’ve accomplished and what you’re working on. This doesn’t have to come up every time, but including it occasionally will remind readers of the many things you’re doing to help your community.


8. Get Healthy DeSoto Inc.


This newsletter from Get Healthy DeSoto offers an excerpt from their latest blog post to entice the reader and invites them to read the rest of the article on their website. The next section presents a GIF animation as a preview of a video that the reader can click to watch.

How You Can Do The Same: If your organization has a lot of great content to share, it’s always a good idea to house this content on your website and simply link to it from your newsletter. Be sure to entice the reader to click on the links: for articles, you can pick a quote, a surprising statistic or a particularly interesting passage to include in the newsletter; for videos, you can design an engaging thumbnail image, include a powerful photo or create a GIF animation that teases some of the scenes from your video.


6 Key Steps to an Amazing Nonprofit Newsletter

From your newsletter’s content to how often it’s sent, every aspect of a nonprofit newsletter can be customized to best appeal to your readers.

To help you get started, or just to give you a quick refresher, here are some best practices to keep in mind as you’re building your newsletters.


1. Figure Out Your Objective

If you haven’t articulated your newsletter’s goals recently (e.g., in a yearly communications/marketing plan), it might be time to re-establish and prioritize your list of objectives.

For example, is your key goal to keep members, volunteers or donors informed about your organization’s news, activities and accomplishments? Or is your newsletter your main form of promotion for regular events or activities – for which you want/need them to take action (e.g., register/volunteer/donate)? Setting clear objectives will help steer your decisions on scheduling, layout and content.

2. Get to Know Your Audience

It may sound obvious, but having a thorough understanding of what your members/readers want helps enormously when creating content for your newsletter. If your content isn’t immediately relevant and valuable to your members or prospects, you run the risk of not getting your message across.

Some practical thinking from your board and leaders should be able to generate some general ideas on what your readers would be interested in. Think about why they joined your organization, what they expect from you, and what they may find useful.

If you find difficulty in figuring out what your audience wants, just ask them! A simple survey passed around at an event, or sent out via an email can get you all the answers you need. Use the conclusions you arrive at to shape any piece of communication.


3. Plan Out Your Content

Your newsletter is a great vehicle for nurturing your relationship with your members, supporters, and volunteers.

While the subject matter will depend on your organization’s scope or mission as well as your communications objectives, here are some guidelines you might want to consider when developing your newsletter/email content:

  • Get their attention: First impressions DO COUNT when it comes to your email subject line and newsletter headlines. You’ve heard it all before – you need to offer interesting and intriguing subject lines to get your email opened. This doesn’t mean being too clever or controversial – since the title needs to be linked to your newsletter topic or lead story to let the reader know what to expect.
  • How much content?: The nature of an e-newsletter dictates brevity. Many e-newsletters (including WildApricot’s) offer three to five brief overview paragraphs with links to the rest of the article through a “read more” link back to your web site. This is an effective way to drive traffic to your web site. Alternately, you can include short articles and updates and refer readers to other areas of your website for more detail.
  • Be genuine: Your e-newsletter is not the Wall Street Journal! While you need to write tight and concise copy, your readers are subscribing to, and hopefully reading, this newsletter for a reason, so be sure your organization’s unique culture or voice isn’t sacrificed through attempts to sound professional. On the other hand, be sure you don’t lay the industry jargon on too thick. Try to find a balance – with a clean crisp writing style that also suits your organization’s style or persona.
  • Have a call to action: Every newsletter should have a call to action. To make the most of your newsletter, try getting across to your recipient a clear idea of what to do next. Whether you want them to click on a link, engage with you on social media or buy a ticket, keep your call to action brief and straightforward. An effective call to action is between two to five words. However, whatever the desired action, it is important you create some urgency around it. So try using some active language. For example if you want your recipient to donate money, “Donate Now” would be effective. If you want them to follow you on Twitter, “Follow us on Twitter” works.
  • Mix up your content: While your newsletter should encourage your nonprofit’s overarching purpose and possibly encourage donations, you should be sure to mix in opportunities for subscribers to be informed about other types of company updates as well to make sure they are familiarized with what you are actually working on. Keeping your subscribers in the loop about what your nonprofit has been up to increases their awareness of your mission, and strengthens the identity of your organization in the minds of your readers. It also maintains a steady stream of opportunities for them to think about getting further involved with your nonprofit.
  • Build Relationships: You know just how essential building relationships with potential donors is to your mission — and a newsletter can help with that too. No one likes getting emails that are all about selling them something. Instead, you can include a question at the end of the emails to get readers to respond, or feature stories of your nonprofit’s beneficiaries, rather than telling everything from your own perspective. Leveraging personal, direct copywriting is not only beneficial for gaining interest in your newsletter, but is almost essential for your nonprofit to acquire the money and support it needs to thrive.

4. What to Consider for Design

I know all too well that non-profits and member-based organizations need to ensure that their communications don’t appear too expensive so they aren’t perceived as using funds that should be applied to serving the organization’s mission.

This means you need to strive for a happy medium between a slick or too-sophisticated design and one that is too dull, old-school or homespun. If you have someone develop a good, clean layout format that incorporates your organization’s logo and design standards, it should help with readability while also projecting an image of cost-effectiveness.

The first thing to remember is that an e-newsletter is not a print newsletter – they are different media. People read emails and online material very differently than they do print versions. If you are lucky enough to have them open your email, you are likely going to have to deal with a short attention span and high expectations. People usually scan an email, so it is extremely important that you follow a few online design techniques, including:

Capture the reader’s attention with a focal point:

This might be through a high impact header or masthead; a bold headline or a photo that draws the reader’s eye to the lead story. Don’t forget to make it clear whose newsletter this is – e.g., have your logo and organization name clearly visible if it isn’t part of the masthead.

Offer a clean, crisp design:

  • Keep it simple:  the eye gets confused if there is too much going on – e.g., too many photos or visuals or a busy layout without any white space.
  • Use colour effectively & boldly (for more tips, check out our post on nonprofit branding)
  • Don’t use too many fonts or typefaces and be sure body text is readable (especially if your audience is over 40)

Guide your reader through:

  • Offer a table of content
  • Break up the content:

5. Stay Top of Mind… Without Spamming

Once you’ve built your email list, it’s your job, as the one producing the newsletter, to make sure you’re sharing information with your loyal subscribers consistently. Depending on how involved they are with your organization, you can decide how often you’ll be sending out your newsletter. Each email reminds your subscribers about your organization and brings your mission to the front of their minds, if only for a few seconds when they see the email in their inbox before even clicking into it.

Consider which day and time are best for sending your e-newsletter. The quick answer is –  it depends on your audience. For example, the majority of business-related emails are opened between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday –  with 11 am being a suggested sweet spot. But your recipients may want to read your e-newsletter at home or on the weekend, depending on your content and their profile (e.g., men, women, students, type of career, etc.). Of course, scheduling may also need to coincide with event or program timelines if you are looking for time-sensitive registrations, program commitments or donations.

Once you claim a constant presence in the inboxes of your subscribers on a recurring basis, you’ll be able to move forward with maximizing the potential of your newsletter. They’ll come to expect information from your organization to populate at certain times and — if you’re doing it right — even be excited to receive your consistent updates!


6. Analyze Your Results

One of the strengths of electronic messaging is that it offers analytics. Most email platforms (including WildApricot) automatically produce some or all of the following data:

  • Open rates
  • Reports on who clicked on links in your newsletter (e.g., links to your website)
  • Subscription information – e.g., unsubscribe and new subscriptions

Track this data when sending your newsletters at different times and days of the week to uncover what is the most effective day and time for your organization and audience, as well as which types of content are the most engaging.

Ready to get sending?

As a nonprofit, you’re looking for ways to get frequent updates and promotions related to your organization out to as many people as possible — without having to spend too much time on it.

That’s why an email newsletter can be a great way to drive further engagement with your organization. Through it, you can communicate recent news updates, remind readers about the purpose your organization serves, and encourage further engagement.

If you don’t already have a platform for sending emails, consider WildApricot’s email editor. You can easily customize your newsletters as much as you’d like, or use one of WildApricot’s pre-built templates. If you already have a WildApricot plan, you will be able to seamlessly send automatic or manual emails to your existing contacts. If you’re not yet using WildApricot, you can start a free 60 day trial and try out the email editor for yourself.


Additional Resources:


nonprofit newsletter

Author: Rob Browne

Rob is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 writing about all things marketing. Originally from New Jersey, he previously worked at an NYC-based business travel startup.


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