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7 Common Nonprofit Email Newsletter Mistakes to Avoid

7 Common NonProfit Email Newsletter Mistakes You Should Avoid

Your boss has big dreams for your organization’s email list. We’re talking big-time donors, excited readers, and an email newsletter ROI that would put Warren Buffett’s best investments to shame.

And guess who has two thumbs and is in charge of this ambitious project? That’s right. You are!

Or maybe that isn’t your story. Maybe you’re looking for a cost-effective way to keep in touch with your biggest supporters and an email list just makes sense. If all the email newsletter examples you’ve looked at are anything to go by, managing an email list for your nonprofit organization should be easy, right?

Well, as you’re finding out, the answer to that question is “Not necessarily.”. In fact, far from the send email, question mark, profit sequence that you thought you were getting into, you’ve been noticing a concerning trend:

Every time you send out an email blast, you’re being greeted with crickets. And your landing page backs up your gut feeling that your email list might be a virtual ghost town.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you troubleshoot. Keep reading to see if you’re making these email list-killing mistakes.

Table of Contents

1. Your Emails Have Formatting Issues

Email newsletter design has a shocking amount in common with general website design. Although font sizes and colour palettes might not seem like important details, you have to look at it through the lens of, “What does my audience want to see?”.

Are your emails gigantic blocks of text with nothing breaking up your paragraphs? Are the GIFs you’ve added correct? Does the final email often have more typos and errors than an English grammar exam?

When you’re doing the job of multiple people, it’s easy to overlook these types of smaller details. But while your audience may be prepared to forgive an occasional error, they’ll eventually stop clicking if they know that your emails are impossible for them to read.

Luckily there’s an easy fix to this one: Send yourself a couple of test emails before you do a full-on blast to the rest of the list. Sure, this bit of quality control might cost you a few minutes. But it’ll prevent you from sending an email that’s riddled with formatting problems.

2. Emailing Too Much

Interesting fact:

According to DataProt, as much as 85 percent of all emails are spam. This sucks for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s a pain to be on the receiving end of spam. And second, because emailing too frequently could end with your emails getting stuck in people’s spam filters.

While it might be tempting to keep people updated on all the little things your organization is doing, emailing your list is like hearing a great song on the radio. The first few times you might be thinking, “Hey this is catchy as hell.”. But let the same song play in a continuous loop, and even if you loved the chorus, you’ll eventually start to tune it out.

Of course, the “right” amount of email will vary from list to list. But if you’re having frequent thoughts along the lines of, “Gee, I hope I haven’t worn out my welcome.”, you may want to try scaling back the number of emails you’re sending.

3. Not Emailing Often Enough

Imagine having a friend in high school that you talk to every day. You graduate, you go to college, and eventually, you move to different states. If you were to call this person up and ask for money in the future, the distance in the relationship would make the whole thing insanely awkward.

In the nonprofit world, the reality of your email newsletter is that you’ll be spending at least some of the time soliciting donations from people. And even though things can get crazy when you’re doing the job of ten people, going silent to the point where people see your emails and say, “Who are you again?” is a difficult thing to come back from.

Your connection with your email list is just like any other relationship. You have to make an effort to stay in touch if you want to maintain a certain level of rapport.

4. Not Having a Big Picture Strategy

When you’re sending out emails on behalf of your company, the last thing you want is to end up in a situation where you’re staring at the screen every week and thinking, “What the heck am I supposed to write about next?”.

Most of us know when we’re watching a show that’s on the verge of jumping the shark. You’ll see plot holes so big that it’s a miracle NASA hasn’t captured the footage from space. And you’ll notice disjointed episodes, filler episodes, and episodes that make your completely disinterested family members say things like, “Man, the writers are running out of ideas.”.

People will notice if they’re on the receiving end of a disorganized email sequence. Maybe one day you’re talking about a project your organization has completed only for your next message to sound like an excerpt from your personal diary.

The solution to this dilemma is pretty simple. All you have to do is sit down and create a content calendar. By taking a few hours to work out these details, you can give your email list a smoother transition that says, “We know what we’re doing here.”.

5. Forgetting to Segment Your List

In the nonprofit marketing world, and even in the for-profit marketing world, there’s one essential fact that people often overlook:

Two people can perform the same action for dramatically different reasons.

Imagine purchasing a pair of Nike or Adidas sneakers. While you might be buying the shoes and thinking, “I needed these for my morning jog!”, the person in front of you at the store could very well have thought, “My nephew will love getting these shoes for Christmas!”. If the shoe company was to send you personalized and survey-informed post-purchase emails, you’d be weirded out if you started getting a bunch of Christmas-themed content, right?

You’ll want to remember this when it comes to your nonprofit newsletter because people may very well be signed to your list for different reasons. As such, your donor list, for example, might not be all that interested in reading about your organization’s full-time career opportunities. List segmentation makes it possible for you to deliver the kind of personalized content that people want to see.

6. Choosing the Wrong Email Newsletter Service

As much as we would all like our software solutions to be interchangeable, sometimes the tech-related cure is legitimately worse than the disease. And email newsletter services are no exception to the general rule.

Of course, the best email newsletter services will commonly offer a healthy combination of analytics, segmentation capabilities, sequencing, and more. But sometimes it really is an “It’s not me, it’s you.” kind of situation.

Are your emails getting caught in people’s spam folders more often? Are your messages constantly coming out mangled even though the templates looked gorgeous in the preview?

You may have to spend some time shopping around for a new email service provider.

7. Not Tracking Your Results

Usain Bolt is known as “The Fastest Man Alive” for good reason. But if the Olympics had never been in the business of tracking records, sports watchers would all have said, “Man that guy is fast!” without ever realizing that they were watching a historic sprint.

Having an email list and not gathering data is basically the equivalent of being an Olympic timer and forgetting your stopwatch. Maybe that subject line you threw together was amazing at generating clicks. Or perhaps your volunteers aren’t responding to this latest run of emails to the degree that you would have hoped. You’ll never know until you start measuring.

With Apple’s latest releases, tracking clicks and email opens will certainly become a lot harder. But that’s where our team at BrashBerry can help. When you work with us, your website and your emails will be making a positive impact faster than you can say, “I hope they see this email.”.

Are These Email Newsletter Mistakes Killing Your Nonprofit Marketing Efforts?

Whether you’ve got a local list or a national one, there’s one thing that everyone can agree on:

Running an email newsletter is a lot harder than it looks. You have to get the design just right. You have to come up with the kind of hard-hitting subject line that makes people stop deleting their messages for a minute and say, “Man. I need to read this.”. And you have to do it consistently.

If that sounds tough, it is! But that’s where we can help you out.

Our team has been doing this digital marketing thing since 2001. Book your appointment with BrashBerry today!

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One Response

  1. Don’t just dump a new subscriber into your ongoing emails & hope that they find something interesting, helpful or relevant. Instead, create a series of welcome emails, ideally three to five emails, designed to answer the unique questions of a brand-new subscriber—and to make it clear that you’re thrilled to have them! You want to validate and reflect their excitement about joining your newsletter and your mission.

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