While researching email tips for non profits I discovered Kivi Leroux Miller’s blog about non profit communications. One of her articles presents 15 Places to Find Article Ideas for Your Nonprofit Newsletter which includes some creative places around the office and otherwise to find newsletter ideas.
So after reading Kivi’s post I decided to put on my thinking cap to come up with some article ideas too. My goal with these ideas is to provide actual article themes that you can just take and run with. Some of these include examples of real newsletters using these ideas.
- Volunteer Spotlight – Recognize your hardworking volunteers by featuring them in your newsletter. Heroes for Children features its volunteer of the month on its blog. They use an interview format which is great for helping your volunteers get to know one another better.
- Expert Interview – One of the purposes of most non profits is to advocate and inform the public about a cause. You can help educate your audience by interviewing an expert in your field and publishing this in your newsletter and/or website.
- Highlight Challenge Grants – Challenges are a great incentive for people to make donations so remind your audience about it early and often. Each year the Feinstein Foundation offers a $1 million challenge grant to assist organizations who help alleviate hunger. Many food banks and other eligible organizations send special mailings during this time of year and/or include a notice in their regular newsletters.
- Editorial – Feel like getting on your soap box? Write an opinion piece about current events or other issues that are relevant to your cause.
- Legislative Updates – Inform your audience about proposed and enacted legislation on the state and national level that is important to your cause. The Food Bank of Western New York often includes information about legislative and policy issues. For example, the summer 2007 issue highlighted the Feeding America’s Families Act.
- News Tie-ins – Current events don’t have to be monumental to provide story ideas. For example, the new US Five Dollar Bill went into circulation in February. How about a feature showing what a $5 donation, or $5 per month, will mean to your cause.
- Flashback - Include a photo and caption from events in your organization, community or cause in years past. This is great if your organization is celebrating a milestone, such as 20, 25, 50 years, and you can make it an ongoing feature for the whole year.
- Quotations – Let other people do the talking when it comes to bragging about your work. Publish quotations from participants in your program, event attendees, volunteers or community leaders.
- Before and After – The success of makeover and home remodeling TV programs attest to the popularity of true stories of transformation. You could describe one of your clients and what their life was like before and after they came through your program. The Noah’s Ark Animal Foundation of Fairfield, Iowa publishes Happy Endings, stories from families who have adopted their pets.
- The Next Generation – Ask one of your donors to write a short response to the question, “How does the work of [organization name] make the world a better place for our children?”
- Q&A - Answer questions that you hear from the community or from supporters. The most recent newsletter from my local public television & radio station included the answer to “Why does KERA have on-air membership drives?”
- Reminder of Membership Benefits – Remind people what benefits are included in your membership program so they will be more likely to use and renew their memberships. The newsletter mentioned above featured three local arts organizations that offer discounts with the KERA member rewards card and a description of their upcoming performances.
- Statistics – Provide statistics relevant to your cause in percentages and/or graph format. If you serve a local audience include local stats as well as state or national.
- Book Review – Recommend books related to your cause. You can write a longer review of one book or provide just short descriptions on 3-5 books.
- Endorsements – Speaking of books, pick up almost any book and you’ll find quotations on the book jacket from people who give it a thumbs up. Arts organizations can make particular use of quotes from reviews to promote upcoming performers, artists or exhibits.
- Show the Love – Ask a volunteer to answer the question, “Why I love volunteering for [organization name].”
- Top 5 Lists – Taking a topic and putting into a “top 5″ format makes it easier to write and easier to read!
- 60 Minutes – Write a list of what volunteers can do in just one hour to help your cause. At the end include a call to action like “Call Louise, our Volunteer Manager, at 555-1212 today.”
- One Day – Describe one day in history that changed your cause in a big way.
- How-To – Many people find how-to articles quite useful. For example, a school newsletter could publish an article on “how to save for your child’s college education.”
- Big Issue – Ask your director or an expert on your topic to answer the question, “What is the biggest challenge currently facing [your cause]?”
- Surprise! – If you give introductory classes, presentations or volunteer training ask participants to answer the question, “What fact or idea about [the cause] were you most surprised to learn?”
- Cause Celeb – The site Look to the Stars is a great place to find out which celebrities support different causes and when they are in the news for their support.
- Major Donations – Let your supporters know when foundations or businesses make major donations and what that money will do to further your mission. The June 2007 newsletter of CASA of Central Texas announced grants they had received including “a $10,000 grant from National CASA to focus on diversity initiatives.”
- A Day in the Life - Describe an average day in the life of your typical client or ask a staff member to describe their typical day. Break down by hours such as 8-10 am, etc. or morning noon, afternoon, evening.
- Calendar – While most newsletters include upcoming event announcements throughout the issue, why not have a column that summarizes just the dates, event name and location. You could put this on the front page of your newsletter and give the page numbers so readers can find the detail.
- Photos – At first I thought that photos in newsletters were a given. But after browsing through many non profit newsletters researching this article I found quite a few that were all text. How boring! People love pictures. Homes for Our Troops does a great job of including photos of volunteers, events, and people they serve in all of their email and print newsletters.
So there you have it, 27 story and feature ideas for your non profit’s newsletter. Now there are no more excuses for procrastinating on those newsletters. Maybe you can even add to this list!