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Member Newsletters_ Pros, Cons, Alternatives and Best Practices

Newsletters are a staple of the nonprofit sector, and proved effective for decades. But is that still true given the recent changes in how audiences experience media?

Let’s review some pros and cons of email newsletters, some alternatives you might pursue if you decide that it’s not for you, and some tips to make them more effective.


Everyone uses email—Even those who never use social media or read blogs will still have an email address.

Inexpensive, with high ROI—According to surveys by Campaign Monitor, email has an ROI of $44 for every dollar spent. And you won’t have to spend much; email services such as MailChimp and ConstantContact often have free or reduced-cost packages for nonprofits.

Unlike social media, you don’t have to wrestle with an algorithm or budget for ads to make sure your message is seen.

Personalization and segmentation—Only email offers personalization options at low cost. It’s also relatively easy to segment donors or members into lists that see different mixes of content.

Versatility—Email makes it easy to embed video, photos, graphics, or links to other content. You also aren’t restricted by length: There’s no “too short for a blog” or “This will take 10 tweets” with email.

Regular publishing—Having a schedule to meet can be a motivator, and regular appearances in your audience’s inbox will keep you top of mind.


Feeding the beast—Publishing regularly means producing content on a regular basis.

Layout matters—A text-only newsletter will have terrible open rates and response rate, and so will poor visual design. It’s like a stock Mailchimp or ConstantContact template will fit your needs, but you may need design services.

Time factors—Unlike social media, newsletters are not bite-sized. Some subscribers will save them for later and forget to return to them, or abandon them because they simply don’t have the time.


Here are two basic alternatives to a newsletter that can help you stay top of mind:

Blogs—An informative blog can bring additional visitors to your site, serve association members with news and tips, and help your search engine rankings. This is especially true if your organization’s mission focus lets you take a content marketing approach and post helpful information that will turn up in searches.

You can also have it both ways: Cultivate an email list and point those subscribers to new blog posts.

Active social media—Putting information out in more bite sized portions (or linking to blog posts on your website) can be an effective strategy that doesn’t need to stick to a schedule. Unfortunately, truly effective outreach requires ad spend.

Best Practices for Email Newsletters

● Use a content calendar to keep your publishing schedule on track

● Put thought into the subject line—This is arguably the most important part of your email, because it affects how many subscribers will open it

● Mix newsletters with fundraising appeals and short updates—If you’re using email to fundraise, send separate emails with stories of lives changed or a report about a specific need, rather than including an appeal in each newsletter.

● Don’t send PDF’s. In addition to being difficult to read on mobile (where 66% of email is viewed as of 2020) PDF’s are more likely to be caught in spam folders and can’t carry embedded video.

● Always personalize—Make sure you collect first names on any subscription form, and use the subscriber’s name in the salutation.

● Include calls to action, and link to your website frequently. Even if you’re making separate fundraising appeals, make sure there’s a prominent donation button in your other emails. Not fundraising? Choose something else you’d like to promote, and include that instead.

Looking for help with your email outreach?

At V2, we’ve provided full service and outsourced services for national associations for many years, and can provide the expertise you need. Get in touch with us today, and let’s see how we can improve your email campaigns together.


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