What are you looking for?

Is Your E-newsletter a Must-read or a Yawn?

Posted by on June 27th, 2014
Posted in Blog   

Is your newsletter one that people welcome? Do your supporters read and get inspired by it? If you’re not sure, or if you have a sinking feeling it could be better, we’re offering 7 ways to make your writing the kind people want to read. Most of these ideas will make your annual report, website, and fundraising campaign materials better, too.

How to turn your next newsletter from boring into bedazzling:

1. Say less.

Shorter is better. Your newsletter doesn’t have to say it all, but it does need to engage your reader. Why make a point in three paragraphs that you could make in three sentences? Your readers’ time is precious. If you don’t get right to the point – a compelling point – your readers are likely to hit delete and move on. It’s better to say less. Leave them wanting more. Share just enough information to inspire your reader to eagerly dig further for more content.

2. Say it in shorter sentences.

Good writing encourages it. Screen reading requires it. It’s much more powerful to convey a concise, clear thought than it is to carry your readers with you on a journey. Using more words than necessary won’t impress your readers. It might even alienate them. Short sentences make your newsletter better.

3. Use more white space.

Your readers shouldn’t feel overwhelmed when they open your newsletter. If every inch of space is crammed with content, it’s too much. And too much leads your would-be reader to hit the delete key. Your newsletter should be refreshing, accessible, and easy on the eyes. And, it should be visually consistent with your other materials.

4. Start with a big, bold, interesting lead that makes me want to read on (Hint: The more it’s about me and the less it’s about you the more interesting I’ll find it.)

Lead with a question or bold statement. Draw your readers in. Grab their attention. And, make it about your reader. Address her directly using “you.” Don’t just say what you want to say. Explain why what you have to say is valuable to your audience. Surprise your reader by creating a conversation with her that she can’t ignore.

For example, I received a newsletter recently from a university where the subject line was “Celebrate End of Tuition Day!”. This acknowledged the day that every kid at the school was essentially attending “tuition free,” since the difference between the cost of educating a student and the tuition charged creates a gap. This lead is happy, celebratory, inclusive, gracious, and served as a great way to thank donors and demonstrate the impact of gifts of all sizes.

Imagine if the subject line had read “Thanks for your help.” Which headine has the best chance of making you open the newsletter?

5. Tell me why I’m receiving your newsletter, why I should care, and what’s in it for me.

It should be immediately apparent to your reader why she’s receiving it. Your newsletter shouldn’t be about what you know, but about why she ought to know it, too. If your newsletter isn’t personal, the only relationship you’ll be stoking is one between the recipient and the “unsubscribe” button.

Don’t be afraid of language as plain as this: You’re receiving this newsletter because you care about _______ (saving animals / new ideas for old problems / arts in our city).

6. Don’t title your newsletter “Newsletter.” That’s boring.

Invite curiosity with unexpected and exciting titles, headers, and topic sentences. Your titles tell a lot about who you are, and we’re betting you don’t want to be perceived as boring. If you’re a sleek and sophisticated organization, you’ll want a sleek and sophisticated title. Or, if you’re humble and plodding, that should shine through in the title. Then, all your content should reinforce the personality of who you are as an organization.

7. Make sure I can tell who the email is from by the sender’s address.

If your “From” is the name of your organization, you’re already off on the wrong foot. Your organization isn’t a person, but we all know a person sent the newsletter. Who from your organization is creating the conversation? That’s the person your newsletter should come from. And it may vary by edition, depending on the content of each newsletter. Imagine you’re the reader. Don’t you want to know who’s talking to you and why?

Newsletters are a great way to share information and keep your organization visible. To be valuable to your readers, make sure your newsletter is both concise and personal. Contact us to be added to our own newsletter called “New Ideas from Mission Minded.” It will arrive in your in-box from me or Zach Hochstadt.

What other tips have you used to make your newsletter irresistible?


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

See all posts by