Thirty-minute email newsletter makeover

Suzanne Norman

Having a better email newsletter strategy doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of time.

Much like the mystery bread in your pantry or reruns of 90s sitcoms, email newsletters can also get a little stale. To freshen up yours – and see fresh involvement from your volunteers and members – try these three 10-minute tips for a quick email makeover.

Get serious about that subject line

It’s the most important sentence of your entire email campaign, and yet too many otherwise creative people are content with banal subject lines like “April Newsletter,” which are likely to get overlooked by busy readers sorting through crowded inboxes.

Makeover tip: Set a timer for 10 minutes and jot down as many versions as you can for your monthly newsletter’s subject line. You’ll be surprised at what happens when you devote serious attention to those all-important eight to 12 words.

As you pick your favorite, look for the phrases that clearly identify your organization and create a little intrigue, without giving too much away.

Make the most of your newsletter’s prime real estate

With more readers using preview panes in their email programs, the top few inches of your newsletter are more important than ever. Unfortunately, many emails start off with big blocks of newsy text (ick!), which is easily looked over by busy readers with cluttered inboxes (ack!). As a result, the important calls to action – to volunteer, donate or attend an event – get buried under a deluge of text.

Makeover tip: As you’re laying out your next newsletter, take 10 minutes and pretend like the top four inches of your email is all your recipients are going to see.

Make sure your logo is there. Make sure you’ve introduced your email’s theme. And give prime billing to links you want people to click, just in case a quick preview is all someone needs to join your cause or learn more.

Follow up on fundraising effort and events

You’ve written your email copy, designed the layout, found the graphics and sent that puppy out – finally.

After all that effort, it’s easy to understand why so many of us never bother to analyze the results afterward. But by ignoring who opened and clicked your email, you’re missing out on opportunities to follow up with the people who are most interested in your news and events.

Makeover tip: Print out your next campaign before you send it. By each link, jot down an idea for following up with the people who click it.

For the folks who click the link to register for an event, you may decide to send a follow-up reminder as the event draws near. Or why not try a personal phone call for people who click a link to get more involved?

By thinking about your follow-up strategy before you hit send, your campaign results will be as important to you as the campaign itself.

Suzanne Norman is director of community relations at Emma, an email marketing service provider based in Nashville, Tenn. She can be reached at

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