Spitfire Strategies

Optimize Your Online Communications

Kerry Leslie

By Kerry Leslie

As your inbox probably reflects, the majority of nonprofits use digital newsletters or emails to communicate regularly with their members or supporters, sharing the latest news, campaign wins and opportunities to get involved. In fact, 61 percent of nonprofits sent monthly e-newsletters in 2014. Unfortunately, many organizations are losing the chance to convert these communications into supporter engagement because their audiences never make it through the email and to the ask.

While it’s true that the subject line of your email is your hook, what readers see when they open your email determines if they’ll bite. For nonprofits working on some of the hardest-to-tackle social change issues today, user-friendly newsletters and emails are a must. Below, we’ve shared a few tried and true tips to help organizations create visually powerful and appealing digital communications.

  • Keep it short and simple. Your audiences are busy – thus, your emails should fit into their busy schedules. To keep content simple and impactful, emails should contain one or two ideas at the most and avoid linking to multiple pages or resources. Asking readers to click on multiple links within one email can be overwhelming. Be clear about your call to action and let readers know what they’ll get out of participating. Shorter emails are easier for readers to digest meaning they are more likely to read the emails, especially on mobile devices.
  • Use a single column of text. When crafting an email or newsletter, consider the different ways your audiences will be reading your message. Today, about half of all emails are first opened on a mobile device. Multiple columns in an email require your audiences to zoom in when reading on a smartphone or tablet, decreasing the viewer experience. Using a single column makes your email look cleaner and more visually accessible on a desktop. It’s also a good way to stay true to the short and simple rule.
  • Choose only a couple pictures to accompany your email. While images can make a newsletter more visually appealing, they’re only effective if your readers actually see them. Many email systems, as well as certain mobile devices, block or hide images in emails by default, leaving boxes of white space and bulkiness to the email. If you do include pictures in your emails, always add an image description so readers know what content was intended even if it does not load.
  • Check your colors. Newsletters and emails should be easy to read. Just as readers may be deterred by emails that require them to zoom in, they will likely bypass an email with poorly contrasted text and background colors. Choose colors that are easy to distinguish and easy on your readers’ eyes. If your message includes links, use a distinct color for link text so it stands out from regular content. When picking a color scheme, consider what emotions you want your email to convey and find the combination that makes your audience do the least work to read it.

Many nonprofits and social change organizations still haven’t fully tapped into the potential for online communications to move their causes forward. These simple tips can help nonprofits revamp the way their audiences interact with their emails and digital newsletters – increasing readership, engagement and ultimately action.

“This is a truly transformative program and there is no question that it is preparing leaders to be courageous communicators.”

- Colleen Bailey, Executive Director, The National Steinbeck Center

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