Starting An Email Newsletter

by Jim Chesters

Looking for the next step to growing your organizations reach and saving more lives? Then it’s time to set up an email newsletter. It can seem daunting, but email marketing can actually be easy, rewarding and even a little fun.

Oliver from Humane Society for Hamilton County gets excited about email marketing.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and reasons you may want to use an email newsletter or marketing campaign for your organization.

Turn Adopters Into Donors

Each adoption you make is not one less potential adopter out there, but one new potential donor for life. Collecting the email addresses of all your adopters and keeping in touch with them through an email newsletter will keep your adopters feeling like they are part of your organization. You’ve made a big change to their family, and keeping in contact with them through emails is one way to help ensure they stay a part of yours. Many will want to keep helping but may not even know how to. Email fundraising and marketing can keep them engaged with your group and get them on board as future donors.

Build Your Story

Sending out a regular email newsletter, whether you do it once a month or twice a year, gives you an opportunity to keep telling your story. It lets you keep your mission current in your readers’ minds and gives you a platform to talk about your values and culture.

Get Others to Support You

Email newsletters can be a great way to spread the word about what’s coming up in terms of events. People likely won’t visit your website regularly to see what’s on the calendar, but if you send it directly to their inbox there’s a better chance of getting them involved in what you’re doing. It also gives you a way to reach people who might be interested in volunteering, fostering, donating or offering other kinds of support, but who are just waiting to be asked.

Save Your Budget

Possibly one of the most important points is that running an email newsletter can be considerably cheap and help keep your budget under control. Many email messaging providers offer a wide range of pricing options so you can pay for only what you need. It’s typically cheaper than the printing, postage and cost involved in running a normal direct mail program.

The Humane Society for Hamilton County has some some good examples of their email newsletters that help illustrate all these points rather well.

Red Cookie from Horse Rescue United

Where to Begin: Find a Service

The first thing to do is find an email service provider, because you don’t want to be sending these all manually. Besides the repetitive labor involved in copying and pasting the same email into hundreds of individual messages, sending too many identical emails in a short time period can trigger flags for your address and get it marked as spam. Using a email service provider helps avoid these issues (and the inevitable copy and paste wrist-strain). Some of the best and most popular providers are MailChimp, Constant Contact and Campaign Monitor.

Determine which one looks right for you, but regardless of who you choose a good provider should allow you to build and manage your email lists, provide a variety of templates or options to build out how your email looks, send your email, and track data to help you see how well it performs. They should all offer a free trial period or a free account to let you check it out and get your feet wet before committing.

Build Your List

The number one rule of email marketing is to never send unsolicited emails. Doing so can do more harm than good if people don’t want to be receiving your messages, and can even be against the law in some instances. Instead you want to build your list of people who want to hear from you. You can find these people everywhere:

  • Your Website can offer an easy place to include a sign up button for your newsletters. Your email service providers should offer a code or widget that you can drop into your site to let visitors easily sign-up and become automatically placed on your list.
  • Your Petfinder home page is also another one to drop any sign-up codes your email service provider offers. Using the advanced setup for your home page lets you edit the html to give you the ability to do this.
  • Facebook also provides places for email newsletter widgets to put into your profile. These Facebook integrations should be offered by most email providers.
  • Bringing a pad and paper to events is the tried and true method of getting subscribers. Then you’ll just have to enter these subscribers manually into your list at the end of the day.
  • Collect the email addresses of your adopters and add a check-box on your paperwork asking if they would be interested in receiving your group’s newsletter.
  • And if you have a physical location just keep a list running at the front desk. Print out some copies of the most recent newsletter and place them next to the sign up form so anyone who drops in can stay in touch.

Create your Emails

With great emails your list will grow and you can be sure to encourage people to sign up by offering useful tips, information, promotions and more.

Simon from Seattle Humane Society

As you construct your emails you’ll want to build them out so that the design is consistent with your organization’s. Add your logo, your color palate and include links to your website and your Petfinder pet list. Most of the email providers should offer custom templates you can use to make sure your emails look professional and consistent.

As you create the content for your newsletters keep your audience in mind. Your content should be easily digestible, fun to read and directly communicate any needs you may have. Show behind the scenes glimpses of your organization, highlight a featured pet or a new adopter, post about any upcoming events you’re hosting or will be attending and include links or information on how to donate, volunteer, foster and adopt. Check out this newsletter from Seattle Humane Society for another great example that hits all those points.

Have any examples of email newsletters you’ve put together, or want to get advice on one? Share in the comments below or head over to our Facebook page and ask!