Why Do Email Newsletters?
Many small not for profit organisations have yet to take advantage of email communications for a variety of reasons – some genuine and some which are out of date excuses. This article sets out to explain why almost everyone has the audience, the content and the capability of using email to communicate
Email newsletters have been buzzing around the third sector for many years (in web terms), and the majority of large organisations use them to communicate with donors, supporters, campaigners and other special interest groups.
Email newsletters can take many forms, from brief e-alerts with a single story to the more common newssheet style with 4 or 5 paragraphs leading to a webpage with the full article. Whichever format they take they are normally a précis of events, asks, and news stories to encourage supporters to feel part of an organisation and continue or develop their support by educating them about the issues.
Small and medium charities have been slower to take up this new communications medium for a variety of reasons, and many still ask why they should, what benefits it will bring to them.
Part of this reluctance comes from knowing it is another job to add to the pile of tasks to be done by already stressed and overworked staff and volunteers. But part also comes from forgetting that communication with our supporters, beneficiaries and peers is one of the best ways to raise the profile, and the income, of an organisation. That may sound harsh, but often when we have our heads down battling to do the day to day tasks the strategic development issues are hard to hold onto and even harder to put into effect.
The old arguments about the age and profile of our audiences no longer holds up as an excuse not too take on e-communications. Approximately 65% of the UK population use the Internet, 70% of them have broadband and 90% of all web users use email. With the growth of silver surfers keeping in touch with grandchildren by email and shopping online, there is no longer an easy opt out from using this type of communication.
The final excuse for not doing emails is not having email addresses. When we know that 65% of the audience use the web and 90% of them use email it must be possible to get a fair proportion of our supporters email addresses. Add to that that our target donor audience are by necessity the better off, and there is a good chance that they use email: the correlation of wealth to Internet access is obvious. And bear in mind that stakeholders, like volunteers, are emotionally involved with the organisation and want to engage.
Whether you take on doing a newsletter at the moment or not you should be asking everyone for their emails. On donor forms, sign up forms, at events and of course the web, take every opportunity to ask people for their email addresses.
There are many reasons why email is an ideal way to communicate and many audiences it will work with. Some of the ways you might use email include:
The list goes on – almost any type of audience can form part of an email cycle, even if it is ad hoc news which gets sent out only when you have something to say.
And content is critical. If you don’t think you have enough news for a monthly newsletter it is better to tell your audience directly that you will send them something when there is something to say than loose their support and patience by sending them filler.
But before writing off the monthly email newsletter as too much work, or using the excuse that you don’t have enough stories, try thinking outside the box about what your audience wants to hear. On a printed newsletter you may feel that you need solid and strong stories to publish. But email newsletters can be much more relaxed and personal. Our supporters are interested in the minutia of charity work, about the daily work we do, and they like to feel that they are inside the organisation, part of the team. So rather than waiting for the big story or the annual event, tell them small things more frequently and build the relationship.
So why should you being doing email newsletters?
So whatever your size, whoever you can talk to, email is a cheap, cost effective, easy to use and immediate – the ideal way to communicate and build relationships with donors, supporters and stakeholders alike.
A classic Small Not For Profit Organisation Example:
Committee requested and received permission at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) to send out AGM notices by email where possible and now posts AGM papers on the website.
So whatever your audience, however small you organisation, email newsletters can offer you a great way to engage with your audiences, and the more you engage the more they will participate, whether with time or money. The old excuses are over, email is cheap, easy to do, and at least 60% of your audience has email. And honestly, what excuse have you got left?