Improving your charity newsletter

browningyork Case-study, Charity, Communication channels, Communication lessons, Planning, Voluntary sector

I’ve recently done some work with a small education charity to help them improve their termly schools newsletter. It was a classic situation of something they knew wasn’t working as well as it could, but as a small and operationally busy team they simply didn’t have the time to step back and look at how to improve it. The fact that I was an objective pair of fresh eyes was also useful.

As I have mentioned many times before on this blog, I am a firm believer in the power of communications planning; if you are going to spend time producing any kind of communication channel, it seems crazy not to make sure you are using that time as effectively as possible. Although this particular client knew what their newsletter was for and knew a lot about their intended audience, they hadn’t been able to take that next step to pull all their insight together and see what it meant for delivery.

As a result, they were producing something that held a lot of useful information, but that was haphazard and difficult to make sense of quickly. For an audience with a huge number of other demands on their time and attention, this was never going to be a success.

So I started by going back to basics, rearticulating the purpose of the newsletter (checking that it was even still required) and painting a clear picture of the intended recipients. This made it much easier to identify messages and content types that would support the achievement of the purpose with the audience. It also helped to priorities and segment that content, making it easier to sign-post within the newsletter so that recipients could quickly find what they needed.

Of course, planning will only take you so far. Once you’re clear on why, who and what, you need to look at how. Whilst researching options for this project, I came across a great resource for benchmarking and sharing best practice – I always think it’s interesting to see what others are doing and see what you can learn from them:
www.charityemailgallery.com

I made a short list of recommendations for the team to apply to their schools newsletter:

  • Consistent layout, with different content types, such as news or actions, in the same place every time.
  • Short, punchy content blocks that are the same length as each other, with links to more detail elsewhere if needed – looks much more professional.
  • Use colour and images to accentuate different content types, but don’t overdo it – too many visual changes can be fussy and distracting.
  • Put the most important actions or information at the start of the newsletter – realistically, not all readers will read the whole newsletter.
  • The spring term newsletter looked professional, informative and useful. Anecdotal feedback is that the schools like it and we await more formal measurement to look at the response in detail.

    If you need help to improve your newsletter, please do get in touch for a chat.

    Until next time
    Sarah