Your newsletter, whether printed for "snail mail" or sent online to an inbox, is your #1 vehicle for keeping your supporters engaged in your work. Regardless of delivery mechanism, the same rules of engagement apply to connecting with your audience.
That said, when you move from print to an online vehicle, your content can usually benefit from a little tune-up for the way people read and interact with online information. Here are some simple ideas for keeping that new vehicle revved up and rolling right along.
1. Don't work so hard.
This is just another way of saying less is more. Remember that people generally scan emails and articles on the Web, rather than reading word-for-word. Keep it short and sweet. A big chunk of text could send your supporters packing. Instead, use subheads and bullet points where possible to help get your point across.
2. Give 'em something to do.
Your supporters love animals and want to help them: find ways to keep them engaged! That could mean directing them to an article on your website for more information, or adding links and info about how THEY can adopt in your "happy endings" adoption success stories. And if you've got a website or Facebook fan page, include a link to it in every e-newsletter.
3. Give 'em a way to give.
Include info about how to make donations in your e-newsletter. If you accept donations online, add that Donate button every time. If you don't accept online donations, include your mailing address and indicate to whom they can make checks out. And don't worry, you're not being pushy. Asking for donations online is par for the course for all nonprofit organizations, so folks aren't likely to be turned off.
4. Reach for the stars, design wise.
For better or worse, your e-newsletter reinforces your visual image. A good, clean design that is easily viewed in an e-mail window or a web browser is a must. This doesn't have to cost a lot. You may be able to get a local firm to design a template for you pro bono, or a talented web designer or student just starting out may be willing to work for free to build up her portfolio. Do any of your volunteers have web design experience? You can also contact your local chamber of commerce for a directory of local businesses. Or keep an eye out for e-newsletter designs you like as inspiration.
5. Just add fur.
People love photos of animals, so be sure to use them in your newsletter. Good-quality images (72 dpi, with the smallest side at least 600 pixels) are a must (see our article on getting great photos of animals). Do keep in mind that surgical shots of animals lying prone on tables can be very jarring for some readers. Images of animals recovering or who have healed from injuries/accidents/abuse are preferable, and will still convey that lifesaving work has taken place.