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10 Commandments of Nonprofit Newsletters

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Nonprofit newsletters are a great way to keep you in touch with your readers, whether you're a freelancer who wants to stay in front of your clients (or those who might want to use your services) or a ministry, nonprofit, or small to mid-size business.

Your readers already know you. You’ve earned their trust. When you send a regular newsletter online, print or both, you build that relationship by staying in touch. You build further credibility when you follow good, fundamental principles - these 10 commandments for writing a newsletter.

1. Thou shalt have one

10 Commandments of writing newsletters. Great for entrepreneurs, freelancers, ministries. With Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

Nonprofit newsletters are a primary means of communicating with your donor base and reinforce the wonderful work you’re doing. Over time, they also provide a way to document your organization’s history.

2. Thou shalt know thy reader

Understand their hot buttons and why they have partnered with you in the first place. Speak to those issues.  Use this checklist to clarify your readers.

3. Thou shalt not bore your readers

Provide fascinating content and newsworthy updates, not boring in-house strategy summaries. Include engaging stories about your beneficiaries, how-to’s, event information, data, profiles, and anecdotes about those you serve. Make sure your content has substance that supports your mission. Ads and promotion are secondary (and most of the time, unnecessary and inappropriate). Check out a list of content ideas here.

4. Thou shalt use the right tone

Nonprofit newsletters are a means to keep partners and prospects up-to-date about what’s going on in the family. They’re not a soap box. The tone is always reader-centered, designed to inspire and motivate. No scolding, preaching, threatening, begging, or posturing allowed. Use conversational, friendly language (Get tips here for writing conversationally.)

5. Thou shalt honor the Law of Quality

Well-constructed articles, eye-catching layout, and a professional presentation show the reader you are credible. If you don’t have time or staff to put together a high quality publication, then outsource it.

6. Thou shalt use plain language

Keep verbiage to a minimum. Avoid niche lingo. Vary sentence length. Where possible, use lists and bullets for skimmers.

7. Thou shalt use attractive visuals

Photos, action shots, graphs, charts, color and easy-to-read fonts make your newsletter user- friendly. The more personalized, the better.

8. Thou shalt stick to a mailing schedule

By sending regularly intervals (monthly or weekly for example) you demonstrate reliability and earn your reader’s respect.

9. Thou shalt include a response device

Provide a response device in every newsletter, whether it’s a buck slip in a print newsletter or a Donate link in your enews. Give your reader a chance to interact with you, offering him opportunities to give, pray, volunteer, engage through social media, or otherwise participate. (Extra tip: a separate buck slip and return envelope will net better response than a tear-out coupon in a print newsletter.)

10. Thou shalt offer thy newsletter online

Send your newsletter as an ezine to readers who have email access, and archive back issues on your website as an informational resource.

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