Creating Effective E-Newsletters:Key Administrative Items

By James V. D’Ambrosio

(This is the third in a series focusing on e-newsletters)

Once you have a solid distribution list, you need to ensure your publication arrives without error and in professional form. That’s where e-mail marketing software comes in, allowing users to do far more than send publications — you can create a personalized greeting, schedule a distribution time, and measure key metrics: bounce-and open-rates, click-throughs, the number of ‘unsubscribers’ and more. Two popular applications are ConstantContact and IContact. The work associated with an e-newsletter does not end after it’s sent. Conversely, there are a number of items you should monitor while planning and writing your next issue. 

One is improving deliverability rates. Research indicates that spam is now rampant, comprising more than 95 percent of all e-mails according to some sources. In fact, AOL says it filters more than 2.7 billion spam e-mails daily. To reduce the possibility that your publication is classified as spam, ask recipients to add your sending e-mail address to their address books. This is important, as increasing numbers of Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) are blocking delivery of all e-mails not approved in advance by recipients. To avoid this, send an e-mail notice to subscribers telling them that by doing so there will be no interruption in receiving regular scheduled newsletters.

All nonprofits distributing e-mail newsletters should be familiar with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) effective January 1, 2004. Some key provisions of the legislation include: a) senders must remove all unsubscribe requests within 10 business days; b) commercial e-mail must display the physical postal address of the sender; and c) any unsolicited e-mails must clearly identify that it is an advertising message and contain a prominent notice giving the recipient(s) the opportunity to decline future e-mails from you.

Creating Effective E-Newsletters:Building Your Distribution List

By James V. D’Ambrosio

(This is the second in a series focusing on e-newsletters.)

(Note to readers: Originally I was going to write about online protocols and e-mail marketing applications in this post. I will address that topic later in the series.)

An important aspect of an effective e-newsletter is building your distribution list. For nonprofits, membership-based agencies can start with member e-mails, including the newsletter as a benefit. For others, begin with core stakeholders — employees, donors, public and private funders, government agencies, board members, organizations you belong to, populations served, and agencies with similar missions. Much like a job search or political campaign, connect with your base and expand outward.

Strategies for growing your list has been a subject of debate. While some organizations purchase e-mail lists, I don’t recommend it. You risk having your publication show up as spam in inboxes and, with so many e-newsletters out there, it will likely be deleted even if it does get through.  A far better approach is developing a permission-based list containing only opt-in subscribers — those who really want to hear from you. 

So how do you generate an opt-in list? First, leverage your Web site. On the home page — and every page — provide a ‘subscribe’ box prominently displayed in the same place (the upper-right or left of the screen) for maximum exposure. You can offer opt-in incentives such as white papers, discounts, and special reports to encourage people to leave contact information and give permission to be contacted with further information.

When sending your publication to a new subscriber, provide a link to the ‘extras’ you promised in your welcome letter. Keep the sign-up form simple, just ask for an e-mail address — that’s all you need and the most many people will provide.  Make sure to clearly outline your privacy policy and what customers will receive after signing up.

Offline strategies can also be effective. At special events, have a sign-up list at the registration table with a clipboard and pen for attendees to sign up, or have staff distribute forms to the crowd. When sending a print newsletter or mass mailing, include a mail-in form for people to subscribe. Additionally, you can train front-line staff how to ask callers to sign up, just make sure there is a clear privacy policy nearby to allay concerns and reassure callers that it is easy to unsubscribe. Also ask librarians and community leaders to make your print newsletters available to the public so those without Internet access can benefit from the information.

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