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Why You Might Need a Volunteer Newsletter + 3 Templates

Tatiana Morand  16 June 2020  0 comments
 

volunteer newsletter


“You sure do send a lot of emails,” a volunteer mentioned to Jesse casually during a work day at the nature preserve. 


“Sorry, just want to make sure no one misses anything,” he told her. 


When he stopped to think about it, Jesse suspected she was right. He did send a lot of emails to volunteers. The nature preserve where he was executive director (and only full-time staff member) relied on the corps of volunteers who jumped in to help. 


Volunteers worked as trail guides, nature center docents, and clean-up crews. In the summer, he welcomed a score of volunteer camp counselors and youth mentors. In the winter, seasoned volunteers led the public on snow-shoe hikes and helped keep snowmobiles out of the preserve. All year-long, Jesse was sending volunteer emails.


But how many emails was he sending?


When he looked over his stats for the past month, he was shocked. He’d sent...a lot of volunteer emails. A lot. 


With no overarching strategy, these emails didn’t really do anything besides alert volunteers to opportunities. They didn’t build community, educate them about the organization, or even thank them. It was just, “Opportunity/People needed/Come out to help with this thing.” 


But he worried that at the current volume, his emails were having the opposite effect. Volunteers were starting to tune him out and miss important information. 


As Jesse thought more about volunteer engagement, he realized that he was missing out on opportunities to strengthen the relationship between the organization and volunteers. 


He needed a communication device to build morale, introduce new projects, and showcase volunteer contributions. He brainstormed ideas, and kept coming back to one question: did he need a volunteer newsletter?

 

In this post, you’ll:

 

What Can a Volunteer Newsletter Do?

Adding another thing to your communication schedule may not seem all that enticing at first, but a volunteer newsletter can actually streamline your communication. One of the reasons Jesse hadn’t started a volunteer newsletter before was that he was concerned about adding yet another thing to his schedule.

 

But sending a newsletter can actually reduce email by corralling all the necessary information into one place. While you’ll still need to send reminders and updates, a volunteer newsletter can do a lot of the heavy lifting for sharing information. 

 

Even if you don’t have a ton of volunteers or many opportunities to wrangle, a regular volunteer newsletter can accomplish a lot. You can use your volunteer newsletter to:

 

  • Update volunteers on changes at your organization

  • Celebrate good news and break bad news

  • Remind volunteers of important dates

  • Alert volunteers to opportunities in your community that relate to their interests (free CPR training, an exhibit at a local museum, a book discussion)

  • Address common issues volunteers face

  • Introduce volunteers to each other

  • Thank volunteers and appreciate them

Plus, it’s a great way to keep current and potential volunteers informed even in times like these when you might not be running your normal programming so that they know how your organization is responding and adapting. 

 

As Jesse consulted with a few key volunteers, he decided to use his newsletter for three main purposes: share opportunities, appreciate volunteers, and update them on the organization. He was able to use one email in place of the several he used to send — it was less work, and volunteers weren’t overwhelmed. 

5 Tips for Your Volunteer Newsletter

Of course, publishing a volunteer newsletter is only the first step. It takes a little more thought to make it a useful resource that your volunteers will want to read.  

 

 

1. Keep It Short

If you want volunteers to read your newsletter, don’t overload them with content. If you’re mailing a print newsletter, you may be able to include some extras, but if you’re sending an email newsletter, brevity is in order. If you have longer stories to share, consider including a paragraph or two, and linking to the rest of the story on your website. 

 

2. Highlight the Most Important Information

What’s the most important thing for your volunteers to get from the newsletter? Highlight that information with design elements like boxes, lines, and bold text. Put it in a prominent part of the newsletter, and include links so that they can take action immediately. 

 

3. Consult with Volunteers

What do volunteers want in a newsletter? 

 

If you don’t know, don’t just guess: ask them! Take a brief survey, bring it up in a meeting, or casually chat about it with volunteers. You’ll learn a lot and start off headed in the right direction. 

 

Jesse checked in with a few long-term volunteers about what would be the most useful for them. They told him that they wanted to learn more about their fellow volunteers, and they wanted to get news about the organization before the general public, if it affected them. Jesse hadn’t thought about either of those things but easily incorporated them into his newsletter plans. 

 

As time goes on, you can also check in with your audience by looking at your email analytics. What kind of links do they click on? Which emails never get opened? That’s all data about what your volunteers want in the newsletter, too. 

 

4. Create a Strong Brand

Your volunteer newsletter can help volunteers connect with your organization and build community. Volunteer newsletter names, fonts, and layout can all work together to make your newsletter feel like something special. Use a template to easily keep your newsletter consistent from month-to-month.

 

Jesse decided to name his volunteer newsletter “The Preserver Post,” and decided on a template that included three articles (one on opportunities, one on appreciation, and one on organization news), a calendar of upcoming dates, and one large photo. 

 

5. Always Include This Section

Your volunteer newsletter is not just about news, it’s also an opportunity to tell your volunteers how much you appreciate them. Include your newsletter in your larger appreciation strategy by showcasing volunteers’ contributions, thanking them publicly, and celebrating their service. 

5 Volunteer Newsletter Examples

If you're looking to get started (or have a long-standing newsletter you just want to revamp) here are a few examples to inspire you. 

1. Palatine Parks Volunteer Voice

Palantine Parks

This volunteer newsletter has a strong brand, with a name, logo, and photos of volunteers in action. It highlights upcoming opportunities by putting them in a brightly-colored box at the top of the document. 

2. Brightwater Group

Brightwater

Brightwater Group has a print-style newsletter that they publish online. The information is presented in small sections with engaging headlines so that viewers want to read further. 

3. Louisiana Master Naturalist Greater New Orleans

LMNGNO

This is another print-style online publication, with the most crucial information confined to the front page. The main body features bold text so that even if you skim, you know how to join a committee. The list of volunteer events is succinct, with the option to click the title for more information. 

4. Food Share

Food Share

Page through the online edition of Food Share’s volunteer newsletter, and you’ll see how it helps volunteers learn more about new opportunities, like on this page about the senior nutrition gardening program. Eye-catching photos combine with just enough text so that volunteers know what the program is about and how to get involved. 

5. KMC Red Cross

KMC Red Cross

This volunteer newsletter from KMC Red Cross is a good example of keeping things to the point. The front page prioritizes two urgent volunteer opportunities and one short report on the organization’s service stats, along with an events calendar. The following pages dig in more with information about health and safety, youth volunteering, and more calendar dates.


Three Volunteer Newsletter Templates to Send the Perfect Email


If you’re using Wild Apricot, you’ll already know that we offer a wide variety of email templates that you can use to communicate with volunteers as well as members and donors. 


(And if you’re not — you can start your free 30-day trial today.


wild apricot newsletter templates


If you want to start sending out a volunteer newsletter, all you have to do is select one of our many templates. You can then customize the text and format to your liking using our drag-and-drop email editor. All of our  templates are also mobile-friendly, so they can be opened on any device. 


To get you started, here are a few we provide that would be particularly applicable: 

1. For When You Want to Feature an Image

orange study newsletter gif

This template is ideal for situations in which you want your newsletter to have an image that pops to attract immediate interest, such as sharing a new initiative with volunteers. 

2. For When You Have a Lot to Share

member articles newsletter template

If you have a lot of blog updates or other links that you want to share with your volunteers, this template is a great choice! 

3. For When You Just Want Something Simple

simple update email template

Don’t want anything too complicated? This template is great for simple text updates. 


And even if none of these are quite right, it’s easy to create your own email template.

Bring Volunteers Into the Loop

Starting a volunteer newsletter at your nonprofit doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Ultimately, volunteers will get involved and stay at organizations where they feel included, welcomed, and appreciated, and your volunteer newsletter can help them have those experiences. Even a short monthly missive, easily created with a template, can make your volunteers feel more included and keep them up-to-date on everything they need to know about your organization. 


The first edition of The Preserver Post was a hit! Volunteers felt more involved when they had an overview of what was going on in the organization. Over time, Jesse noticed that volunteers seemed more aware of each other and all of the volunteer opportunities, not just what they were personally involved with. And more than one person told him, “I’m so glad you don’t send me a million emails anymore!”


Do you have a volunteer newsletter? Let us know in the comments how it’s working for your organization!


Tatiana Morand

Posted by Tatiana Morand

Published Tuesday, 16 June 2020 at 8:55 AM

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