Ever been frustrated by writing your nonprofit e-newsletter? Ever wondered what to say, or how to get people to click donate? How do you get people to just look at your email and sign up to be the sponsors for your next event?

Mazarine Treyz recently joined us for a webinar in which she showed how to get more e-newsletter opens and signups. You can watch the full webinar here:

Full Transcript:

Steven Shattuck: This is Steven Shattuck and I’m the VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang. I will be moderating today’s little discussion. I’m very pleased to announce today’s guest, she is Mazarine Treyz. Hey there, Mazarine. How’s it going?

Mazarine Treyz: Oh, good. How are you?

Steven Shattuck: I’m good. I’m very excited to have you and I would have to mention this to everyone. I told you earlier. But you are now the all-time leader in Bloomerang webinar registration. This is the highest registered webinar we’ve ever done, about 100 webinars, so it’s very exciting. Thank you for being here.

Mazarine Treyz: Oh, wow.

Steven Shattuck: Yeah, you should feel pretty good about that. And thanks to everyone for hanging out with us for about an hour or so today. For those of you who don’t know Mazarine, she is the author of ‘The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising.’ And that was called one of the Top 10 Books of 2010 by Beth Kanter. Her second book is ‘The Wild Woman’s Guide to Social Media,’ which was published in 2012. That was given a five star rating by nonprofit About.com. I actually own that book, it’s right behind me. It’s really good. You guys should check that out after this webinar for sure. Her latest book is called ‘Get the Job: Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide.’ That was also given a five star review by nonprofit About.com. Mazarine got her start in 2000 as an intern from Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 2003, she wrote her first grant for Indonesian nonprofit Yayasan Emmanuel. In 2005, she actually co-founded her own nonprofit, which is called The Moon Balloon Project. Which is there on the South Shore of Boston, Massachusetts.

Since then, she has raised over $1 Million for various local, national, and international nonprofits with appeals, emails, grants, sponsorships, and more. She’s actually trained over 3,000 nonprofit professionals in the last four years or so. So, this is a great treat to have you, thanks again for being here. And I’m going to pass this off to you in a second. I just want to let folks know that we are recording this presentation and I will be sending out a recording a little later on this afternoon. There is a chat box right there on your screen, so as you’re listening to her presentation feel free to send any questions our way. We’ll both see those and we’ll try to answer just as many as possible before the 2:00 eastern hour, I should say. So Mazarine, I’m not going to take anymore time away from you. Why don’t you go ahead and get us started?

Mazarine Treyz: Gosh. Thank you so much, Steven. It’s just so exciting to have everybody here today. What we’re going to do with the poll questions today is we’re going to use the chat box. So if you’re just calling in and you can’t see your screen, I highly encourage you to just get over there to your computer so you can participate in the poll questions. So we can learn more about you, there’s a lot about me. I’m really grateful to Bloomerang for having me today.

I realized while I was looking over this presentation today that I did forget one key thing that will make people open your newsletters. That is who it’s from. Who it’s from is important and it should always be from the same person. I would definitely make sure that it’s coming from a person in your organization, not just your organization’s name. I just wanted to mention that. But now, let’s learn more about you.

So here’s your first poll question. You can just answer A, B, C, D, or, E in the chat box, I know that will probably make it quicker. What are some of your issues with your e-newsletter is the question. A is written by committee. B, no one signed up for it. C no one clicks donate through it. D, no one opens it. Or, E only my friends read it. Jamie said E, and Bridgette says B. Okay. I feel like we’re getting a lot of C’s and D’s, that’s what I’m seeing. C, C, C. Debbie says yeah. Okay.

So today’s webinar is not yet going to be about how to get people to donate to your newsletter, it’s just going to be about how to get people to open it. But I do have another webinar about how to get people to donate, and I also have like a whole e-course about that. It’s a very long convoluted topic, but there’s lots of things we can say about it. I would love to chat with you more about that. Today you will definitely see some things that will help people donate, but

[inaudible 00:05:03]. So thanks, everybody for checking in about that.

Here is the next poll question. What are you hoping to get out of today? Is it, A, new e-newsletter subject lines. B, tactics to get people to open your newsletter. C, e-newsletter headlines. D all of the above. Or, E a magic bullet system that will allow me to achieve millionaire status in five seconds. Okay. A lot of D’s here. That’s what I’m seeing. Some B’s, an E, E.

I love all the jokers we have today. Oh, Megan said, how to get more subscribers. Lots of D’s. Okay. So we are definitely going to be talking about headlines, subject lines, and tips to get people to open. Yes, all of these. And I wish that all of us here were millionaires right now. That would be pretty sweet. We probably wouldn’t need to be on this webinar though. We could just go out and enjoy the sunshine. If it’s sunny where you are. Elizabeth asked a good question. In terms of sender, what if the person leaves the organization. I’m going to address sender later on in this webinar. I’ll just say right now, it’s going to have to come from somebody else then. Say, by the way this person left, but here’s a new person. If it’s your E.D. or your communications person, just make an email telling about the transition. That’s okay. So, yeah. We’re going to talk about all these things except for the magic bullet.

So, here’s what you’re going to learn today. Best subject lines, formatting rules, cheapest and most useful email clients, in my experience. And if anyone wants to chime in, go for that. Innovations in e-newsletters and we’ll also get into a little bit about blogs as well. Case studies of incredible e-newsletters, what kind of photos used, where to put the donate button, and lolcats. Okay. I’m just joking. We’re not really going to talk about lolcats today.

Now, here comes the pop quiz. What is your most powerful social media tool? A Twitter. B Facebook. C email. D a blog. Or, E your face. I’m seeing B, C, E. Interesting. All right. There’s a lot of different answers here. All right. A lot of people say your face, but they’re not right, even though I wish they were. A lot of people say a blog, they’re not right either. It’s actually C. Email. I have the stats to back this up.

Facebook is actually not your most powerful social media tool, but thanks for playing. This is why. This is from ’11 but it’s still relevant. It’s from ExactTarget and CoTweet. They are the people that made this. They just polled a whole bunch of people from of all different incomes and ages and genders, where they start their day. This was an interactive graph online. It doesn’t exist online anymore, but I took a screencap of it. And, the higher the income and the greater the age, the more likely they are to start their day with email. Email is represented by the yellow section on the coffee cup here. About 59% of people in general. But again, the kind of people that you’re going to be cultivating like your donors. That’s where they start. Some people will even be checking their email, in their bed, on their phone, before they even get out of the bed. I stopped doing that. Thank god. But I used to do that a lot, and I’m not going to ask anybody here if they do that because it’s kind of unhealthy. But Facebook is 11% on here. So the person who said Facebook you’re kind of right, but not. And then there’s the search portal which is 20%, there’s news which is maybe 4% or 5%, and there’s other which is 6%. I would say, people that are starting with a search portal are probably they’re looking for their email. I’m just guessing that. But I’ve seen other people in my life start their day with Google and type in ‘yahoo mail’ into Google. So this might be even higher than you think it is.

Yeah, it’s ExactTarget and CoTweet and I can type that. Thanks for asking, Karen. ExactTarget and CoTweet, and ExactTarget bought CoTweet. Thank you. Steven, thank you so much for finding that. That is just incredible. Wow. I am so floored. So, thank you. Yeah, that’s it. So you can see that this is correct and that’s why what you’re doing today, by being on this webinar even though it’s a beautiful sunny day outside, is so important. Because this can really make a difference for your nonprofits. In terms of getting you donations and getting your engagement with your supporters for a really low price comparative. So that’s why we’re here, because this is so, so key. And most nonprofits, I know for me personally, when I worked at a tiny nonprofit, we don’t do the email anywhere near the frequency that we should. It sucks. We don’t have time, there’s like events, appeals, grants, all of these things. So, how do we prioritize it? Well, I really hope that you can look at this and say, okay, now we need to prioritize it.

If your boss needs to be convinced, this is a good graph to show them. This is also in my social media book. I reproduced it there, but you can also just look at that link that Steven sent in the chat and then you can go find it. You should be doing a newsletter at least once a month. If you’re not doing that right now I would highly encourage that. I personally email people once a week. And, some people do prefer one once a day, though I would never go that far. Actually, I’m having another webinar on auto-responders. Email auto-responders on August 5th. It’s free if anybody wants to come. My website is WildWomanFundraising.com, and you can go check that out too. That will be about how to get more about how to get more out of your email program.

But anyway, let’s get back to the matter at hand here. How to get people to actually open it. There’s this wonderful book called ‘Ca$hvertising’ by Drew Whitman. No one is going to open your email, no one’s going to donate to your email if you can’t get them to open it. So, ‘Ca$hvertising’ talks about subject lines that get people to open your emails. These are some of the most powerful words. Like, free, new, at last, this, announcing, warning, just released, now, here’s, and these.

These are the most powerful and best subject lines. There’s another list of 10 more on the next page. Lists are also good too. The Smithsonian magazine has an e-newsletter that I highly encourage you to sign up for, because they always have really good subject lines and they are a nonprofit. Not only that, they make hundreds of millions of dollars a year with their direct mail.

Thank you for saying that. N.F.I.D. says, ‘Free’ in subject lines is a spam filter trap. Great. You don’t say it every time. Maybe you could just say ‘new’, or ‘at last’. Maybe, ‘at last’ could be ‘At last we’re having an open house’. Or, ‘announcing our open house’. ‘This.’ ‘Get this program, it’s so incredible, here’s what someone is saying about it.’ You know? Or something else, ‘this little girl can now walk again.’ Depending on your cause area. Or, maybe ‘We saved these dogs.’ So there’s the word ‘these’ in there.

Kathy said, is it true that an exclamation point in the subject line will be flagged as spam? Kathy, that’s what I’ve heard. That’s what I’ve heard. If anyone else want’s to chime in on that, go for it. But [inaudible 00:12:54] Smithsonian, 10 new brain studies, rainbow ants, male birth control pill, and more in the weekend newsletter. Yeah, it’s the Smithsonian Magazine Mat. It’s right here. That’s where it is. So check it out.

Here’s some more best subject lines. These can also be used in the headlines of your newsletter. Sensational, remarkable. And all these seem kind of, I don’t know, not so nonprofit-y. But they do work. Maybe you could say ‘Important Development.’ We just found out about this new thing in our cause area’. Maybe if you’re doing advocacy work, ‘this is important’. Or, ‘revolutionary’, or ‘startling’. These are sort of favored by Dr. Mercola, who has some of the biggest e-newsletter circulations in the world. Now, you don’t have to agree with everything the dude says. And frankly, I think a lot of what he says is nuts. But he’s a really, really good email marketer. You might want to sign up at Mercola.com.

His spelling of Mercola is right here, it’s M-E-R-C-O-L-A. Because yeah, the dude’s email marketing is pretty sweet. It really shows you, hey, this is the kind of headlines we have to start doing. Oh, Suzanne said, ‘his headlines are amazing, you want to check it out whether you believe it or not’. Exactly, Susanne. He talks about ‘amazing new developments in cancer prevention,’ or something. Even if you say, ‘last chance to come to our open house’ or ‘hurry, last chance to give before the end of the year’, or ‘quick, we need you to sign this petition right now’. This is how you can apply this to your nonprofits. It’s not just about the for-profits. But the for-profits do do it well.

Here’s examples of Dr. Mercola’s headlines. Warning people about something. Use ‘I’, use the word ‘you’. You can use the word ‘why’ or ‘how’. You can use the word ‘breakthrough’. For example, ‘Doctor Warns: eat this and you’ll look five years older’. Oh no, what is that? ‘How to starve cancer out of your body, avoid these top four cancer-feeding foods’, ‘How much vitamin D do you really need to take’. So, all of that.

Oh, thank you so much, Steven. Yeah. Oh, that’s so nice. So, there you go. People can check that out in the chat window as well. That’s really interesting. First e-newsletter should look like? We’re going to talk about what it’s going to look like later on, Daniel. Thanks for asking. We’re definitely going to talk about that.

Here’s your must-know and must-do about the best subject lines. Try using the words ‘you’, ‘how’, or ‘announcing.’ Test your subject lines. So using the subject line, ‘Our Quarterly Newsletter’ is not going to cut it. Now I’m going to call out a nonprofit that did this. And maybe that’s a little bit of bad form, and I’m sorry, but The Crystal Bridges Museum. I think they are one of the few nonprofits that has over a billion dollars. And every e-newsletter subject line was ‘News from the Crystal Bridges’. It’s in, like Little Rock, Arkansas, and they could’ve done so much better. I just looked at it and said, wow. You have a billion dollars and that’s what you’re doing. And I just looked and was like wow, you have a billion dollars, that’s what your’e doing. But I guess they don’t have to really care if people are going to open it or not because they have a billion dollars. But still, if I were them I would be trying to make the best subject line I could, people would actually open it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Now they’re actually doing different things. They aren’t doing this anymore, but they did this for years. It’s ‘News from the Crystal Bridges’ every single month. It was really not engaging. So, don’t say ‘Our quarterly newsletter’. Don’t put the number of the newsletter that it is in the subject line. Nobody cares about that.

I hope I’ve shown you today a little bit more, but we’re going to go even further than this. So going to describe and learn. Tom Ahern is a newsletter master. Dr. Mercola also. Smithsonian. The NAPCO people are actually really good. They’re all in marketing and I always open theirs. Here’s mine too. One of NAPCO’s worked really well for me. I’m going to show you what that subject line was. And you can use it for your nonprofit too. Here’s some e-newsletter formatting rules. These are actually paper ones, but you can use this in e-newsletters also.

You want a big header with a real headline. So, ‘Join us. Put your honeybee haven on the map this March’. Or, ‘Mansato and Co. found guilty as charged’. Those are, okay, now I want to read more. Always have a caption with your picture. People are going to read the caption and may not read the actual story.

Give us a big picture of what you’re doing. And black writing on a white background is easy to read. One of the nonprofits I had been working with as a consultant helping them with their e-newsletters, they were doing 10 different colors in their e-newsletters. It was very jarring and the background, it didn’t really work. They had a red background, a yellow background, a blue background. Just do black on white, that’s the easiest thing. And, Serif fonts. San Serif and Serif. San Serif is what we’re looking at here and Serif is up top here.

You want a major headline up top. And these are samples from Tom Ahern. So, ‘A troubled mind walks into a bar.’ ‘Before you do your annual report.’ He actually used like, tech speak here which I thought was kind of interesting. ‘Dear Donors, we are happy to say we [inaudible 00:18:14] report.’ ‘Happy? Are you really so sure?’ ‘The five realizations approach.’ ‘The nuts and guts to successful eQuest sales strategy.’ So, he’s got a lot of interesting things to say, and he uses lists, he uses a very conversational tone. He even uses something that you wouldn’t want to try, which is the abbreviation with the numbers and letters.

That’s something to think about. Make sure you have a text only version that can stand alone without pictures. Think of the formula, one email one purpose. Just like you have one letter one purpose, it’s one email one purpose. If you send more emails then you cann have just one purpose. For example, a nonprofit down in Texas who is a legal nonprofit sent me their e-newsletter for my course recently, and asked me to take a look at it. It looked like paper newsletter. It had four articles with all really boring titles. It had nothing about the donor and it had a list of their advisory board, their board, and their staff on the side of the page. As well as a really boring subject line. I was really confused as to the purpose of this letter. I’m like, what are you trying to do with this. I wrote that back to the person that sent it to me. She said, thank you so much. I inherited this newsletter and this is the ammo that I need to change it.

So, what does a really good newsletter look like? Let’s look at that. Here’s [inaudible 00:19:47] e-newsletters are good too, but ‘check out what they did.’ Good headline. ‘We don’t give up.’ Try that one for your nonprofit and see how that works for your subject line or a headline in your newsletter. Start with the word ‘you.’ You want to make your donor the hero. So, ‘Your engagement has kept methyl iodides use in California to handful of applications on less than 20 acres despite the pesticide injuries continuing before court press, and we’re not nearly done.’ Suddenly it’s not about ‘we’re’ doing it. All you do is change the word ‘we’ to ‘you’ and imagine how much more interesting that becomes.

It would be hard to think of something more boring than pesticide use, but Pesticide Network actually makes it interesting. Look at the right hand side here, ‘Why have six of my childhood friends been diagnosed with cancer? Will I be number seven?’ They actually have a tumblr at PesticideAction.tumblr.com. They’re asking people to write in why they care about what they’re doing. Oh, because pesticides maybe cause cancer. They’re really engaging their supporters and giving them a place to have their say. Like, literally have their say, right in their newsletter and that’s powerful.

So, I’m a monthly donor to nonprofit called Living Yoga and I got Living Yoga’s paper newsletter a couple of months ago, and they had actually highlighted not only a donor, but somebody who had won their Yogathon challenge last year. And it was a friend of mine. It was a person that I know. It was really powerful. I was like, wow. They’re really doing everything right here. They’re highlighting a donor and they’re showing people what good donors look like. Have you ever heard the phrase, what you pay attention to grows and what you don’t pay attention to starves and dies?

It’s totally true for your donors and your newsletter. If you’re highlighting your donors, you’re going to get more donors. If you don’t highlight your donors and you talk about we, we, we all the time then you’re going to get fewer donors.

Kathy asks, should you treat all e-newsletter recipients as though they are donors even though aren’t? Kathy, I would. And here is why. You could say ‘You helped us’ or ‘Your engagement.’ See, ‘Engagement’ is a good word. It could have meant they signed a petition, they opened it and forwarded it to a friend who donated, maybe that happened, you don’t know. So, ‘your engagement’. That’s okay to say. You don’t have to say ‘your donation’. You could say ‘your engagement.’ Yeah. Treat them like they have already done something for you, and that’s a really good place to start.

So [inaudible 00:22:29]]. ‘How modern industrial agriculture destroyed our most alluring fruits.’ So, whoa, that’s powerful. What’s going on? There’s a picture of the problem and the caption. There’s farmworker slavery going on. ‘How’ is a strong opener. It is has a personal and a conversational tone. And it has a call to action. They’re not just trying to make you depressed. They’re trying to make you motivated to act. The personal conversation tone goes like this, ‘my interest in tomatoes started with taste. Or, lack there of. But I soon realized that the out of season tomato was a poster child for much of what is wrong with modern industrial agriculture. If you strip away, or in some cases contravene, all things sustainable, organic, seasonal, local, fair trade. You end up with a [inaudible 00:23:15] from abject slavery, to workers being regularly sprayed with pesticides. Including carcinogens, neurotoxins, and mutagens, and ones that can be fatal upon contact.’ So, this poor person here is just really struggling to carry that big bag of tomatoes. And so you’re like, this is really sad. What do we do? ‘What to do?’ They say it right here. ‘What to do? Well, start at this. Home-led buying, or better yet [inaudible 00:23:39] as I can. But if you can’t grow it then it’ll have other things for you to do.

So Diana, it is an e-newsletter, you’re absolutely right. This is a paper newsletter, but we’re learning from the good examples that they have here. So, even if you’re trying to depress them, you can still say, ‘You can do something. In your e-newsletter, but yes. I would like to say today that your e-newsletter should not replace your paper newsletter. They’re both important. Even for the younger generation. But for me personally, I’m younger, and I love getting paper newsletters from nonprofits. And actually, Living Yoga for example sent me one recently. I sent it on to my cousin who is a yoga teacher. It really works to get your message out to more people than you could ever imagine.

So, this isn’t a newsletter, this is a blog post, but you can still use these titles as either subject lines or, headlines in your newsletter. And it can be tremendously powerful for you. This is to gauge some impatient optimist blog. Cindy, yes. I’m sorry. I will slow down.

So, they’re not afraid to shock you. And [inaudible 00:24:56] in the middle of the slide. ‘You don’t know s*** about the s***.’ That is pretty powerful. They’re trying to get people to care about composting toilets, believe it or not. Toilets in the developing world. So they’re trying to educate people about what happens when people don’t use, they’ve been built.

Another title, ‘Everything you’ve ever wanted to konw about fake poop’. [inaudible 00:25:29]

The Indian sex-worker speaks and acts against AIDS’. So they’re using sex, they’re using poop, they’re using lists. This are some of the tactics that they’re using. They’re also using the word ‘you.’ And on top of that, they’re using a conversational tone. ‘Why I’m commited to turning the tide on AIDS’. So I think, wow. How can we make one like this for our nonprofit?

One of the things that you can do with that Impatient Optimist’s blog, which is pretty neat. Is you can categorize it by how many comments an article got, as well as how popular the article is.

The AARP blog also does this, so if you’re helping seniors for example, I’m not sure about all the different causes that are on the line here today, but if you’re helping seniors it would be a wonderful one to look at. The Gates Foundation helps so many different kinds of causes. They do education, HIV AIDS, water and sanitation, and you can see more categories and topics at the top if you want to look and see what they do.

Then, what you can do is just see if your cause is covered by Gates, and see what kind of headline it’s using.

Here is another example from Gates. This is their educational piece. What do you notice here in this picture of the apple. What techniques are they using. Anybody want to tell me? Thank you, Jennifer. Bingo. Lists, you are so right. You’re so smart. What technique is this using, ‘Will we listen to the teacher?’ What technnique? Anybody want to take a guess?

While we’re waiting for that. ‘What will it take to end homelessness’ is also using this technique. Questions. Megan, perfect. Yes, that’s right. Asking a question is very powerful. In a vast majority of my tweets and a lot of my e-newsletter subject lines I ask a question. And asking a question is so much more powerful than making a statement. Even though I . . . but I’ve asked you some questions too.

So, there you go. If it really engages your audience they’re going to think, wow. Maybe I should be asking myself this question.

This is from TheSmithsonian.com, and this is how I signed up for their newsletter. One of the things that you can do to make people sign up for your newsletter more, I knokw some people on here wanted to know that, is give people a preview of the different kinds of newsletters that you have. Maybe you only have one. Great. Just put in a PDF screenshot of the preview of your newsletter. And say, ‘these are the things that you’re going to be learning in our newsletter.’ It says just send me a newsletter, just send me a magazine, put something in stores, put something in Journeys, air and space magazine. They have lots of different things that they do, but they show you what you’re going to get. They take the mystery out of it and they make people say okay, ‘It’s not going to be just them asking for donations, this is going to be something interesting that I get to learn about every week.’

[inaudible 00:28:54]] this incredible newsletter. This e-newsletter from The Smithsonian. This is the one where they said male contraceptive pills, the 10 brain tips, and translucent ants. All of these things. I know that’d be kind of hard to see it on your screen, might be a little smaller, but I am going to read it aloud to you to show you what the techniques are that they’re using.

So, ‘Green Science. 10 new studies that get inside your head.’ If your nonprofit has anything to do with science or studies this could be an interesting one for you. They use sex. ‘Scientists make progress towards the male contraceptive.’ They may not have picture of it but they have the word in there. ‘These rainbow colored tranparents ants are what they eat.’ Wow. They’re using the word ‘these’. They’re using the word ‘how’. ‘How would you rank the greatest presidents?’ That is good for history-based nonprofits. ‘Everything that you didn’t know you needed to know about the Curiosity Rover.’ This is a [inaudible 00:29:54]. It’s all right here . So these are some things to think about.

Then at the right hand screen they have things they want you to do. Maybe they want you to subscribe to their magazine. Maybe they want you to go view a woody at 100. They could have a donate button live too. But they’re just trying to engage you. And so they have different areas where they could engage you, because they do so many different things. That’s something that you could consider for your nonprofit.

What are all the different things in the news right now that would make people care about our cause? How could we bring it with the newsletter? And another thing that they’re doing here that I want you to understand, is that the pictures are good and the headlines are good, but also the excerpts underneath the headlines are good. And they’re just very brief and then they say read more. So it’s really hard to see that, but that’s what it says. So read more, and it has a little arrow and you click there you go straight there. Every link is the same color. It’s usually black and white writing except for the headlines. Which are links, which are green. And they’re always sticking to that convention. That makes people understand that they know what to expect with you.

There’s probably 10 things on here that I would like to read. That, you know, I just wanted to share with you. What kind of open rate do these good subject lines get? Bernie, I’m glad that you asked that because that’s next slide actually. So bingo.

One of the subject lines that the NAPCO online marketing company did is ‘Saving a seat for you at…’ their particular thing that they were doing. I tried that. Saving a seat for you at Beyond Sponsorship. I did a free webinar a few months ago, maybe a month ago, and it got maybe almost a 50% open-rate. That’s pretty much unheard of. ‘Bernie’s a plant.’ No, she’s not. She’s a real person. So you want to segment your target audience based on what they click on, this subject really works. Before we go any further, write down ‘Saving a seat for you’ and then ‘Think about your next nonprofit event.’ Try the subject line it really, really works.

If you’re looking to see if it works and your like, who’s doing the right ones. And who could I [see]. Check out the NAPCO online marketing company, because they actually study this, they have a whole archive that’s full of not just letters, but e-newsletters in the ‘who’s mailing what’ archive. They don’t have data on how well these letters did or how well the open-rate’s did, but they certainly are tested all the time. And their subjectlines have really worked for me. So, when I get one from them, I put it in a little swipe file, and I put it in a section of my inbox where I’m going to go back and look at it later if I ever need inspiration.

John asked, while not completely on topic, can all of these points from the speaker be utilized for Twitter tweets, Linked-in posts, and Facebook posts? John, I would say give it a try. I think you probably could. I think you could use these. They seem to work for all sorts of engagements. Melissa, isn’t the average open-rate 22%? That’s a good question. Depends on who you are. If you’re a nonprofit who’s getting 22% that’s pretty good. A lot of nonprofits get 30%, but most people get lower. When I was first starting out in doing e-newsletters, yeah David, exactly. It depends on the industry. And if you look at MailChimps, they actually have a whole article about average open rates that they’ve noticed with their newsletters. You can look at that, that’s what I look at. But there’s probably some people doing some studies on that.

The way that you can get a higher open-rate is to actually use your newsletter software to say okay, who will open the ‘Saving a seat for you?’ And then just send to those people, so you can segment your list, and just send to the poeple that opened. And say great, okay. Did you go away to get your credit card to pay for our gala and then need to come back? Or, but you need to think, okay. Maybe it’s click here to get a donation or somthing like that.

Oh, there’s a MaleChimp and the ConstantContact article. Thank you. Thank you very, very much for doing that Steven, that’s very, very helpful so that everybody that wants to know the full details of this, check out these two articles that Steven just posted.

I actually am glad that you, one person asked this question here. Looks like if I just go here, I can see this. Kathy, we have a limited newsletter template tied to our database software so we have to compromise. That’s a bummer. I would say that just later on in the presentation that maybe you would want to switch eventually. But this is what will make a bigger difference for you for getting more donations and getting more opens. And if you just email the people that already opened your newsletter, you’re going to get a way higher open-rate than just emailing to everybody again.

Perry asked, are the most successful newsletter programs using a packaged newsletter formatting, or building a homemade version? And if software, which one works best? We’re going to talk about that later. Thanks for asking, Terry.

What some of the greats do is they actually do a text-based newsletter. And it’s just text. Just plain text with links in it. You don’t want to depend on pictures, because everyone who is looking is going to see it differently. People who have AOL, Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, all those things. It’s all going to look different for everybody, but one way to make sure that it looks the same and it has the results that you want, is to do a text-based one. And we’ll see what that looks like later on. But thanks for having such good questions. I’m really, really so pleased with this level of engagement that you guys have.

Now that you know all this about newsletters. I’m going to give you this one, I’m going to tell you what I would improve on this. And then let’s look at this next slide and I’m going to ask you how to help me improve it.

So, this one here. Their headline is, ‘4th annual ride for Alzheimers’. So that’s kind of blah. Say instead, do like ‘Your riding your bike for good causes. Join us on August 11th. [inaudible 00:36:21]] five wishes.’ Which is kind of blah, also. I might say, ‘Save money on your taxes with a tax deductible gift at CBCJ,’ for example. This is a newsletter from this nonprofit, ‘CBCJ goes social.’ Also, not terribly interesting. Where is the donor in all of this. It says, there will be food, beer, music, vendors, and surprises.

The ride starts at Epiphany Knights of Columbus.’ Okay. But show them the excitement that you have that you want them to join you. There is a picture here of something on the ground with a beer on it, and ‘Fundraiser is held in the loving memory of Lorraine Stover.’ That would probably get some people on your list, but that’s not necessarily the most compelling picture either. I would change all of these things, but now it’s your turn. What do you see? What could we change to make this more compelling in this newsletter. What do you guys think?

Courtney, add a face. Bingo. Anything else anybody? Different colored bowling ball. Sure, David. Yeah, make it red. Make it green. Kathy, photo celebrating a strike. Totally. Elizabeth, question. Do you like to bowl? I like that using the word ‘you’. And, ‘You can make a strike’. I like it. Yeah, Joanne said, boring title not engaging. Totally agree. Kathy, a different picture. Yes. Melinda, change the title. Yes. Facebook link. They have it on there. Linda, invite them to participate. Totally. Cherry, CBCJ. They don’t say it right? 10 Knock-out reasons to come to our event. I love that, Cindy. That’s so creative. Wow. Maggie, change the links. Yeah. [inaudible 00:38:14] and keep it consistent. Yeah, CBCJ. They don’t even say. Ann said, are they raising money? What for? We don’t know, right? Gasan, join us. You know, ‘Join us’ is okay. You could say ‘would you like to join us?’, ‘Do you like bowling?’ Putting the word ‘you’ in there is good. Daniel said ‘perfect strike.’ I love it. ‘Be a part of it’. Yeah, David. I would. I would say ‘you can be a part of it.’ You guys are just so smart. You guys are just learning so much here, and you probably already knew some of this stuff.

Andrea says, ‘You’ll be bowled over’. I like that. You guys are so good. Oh, how about humor? Yeah, I would have to say humor really, really works. I have to say for my newsletters, the way I’ve been getting higher and higher open-rates is that I put two jokes at the bottom of every single e-newsletter that I do.

Let’s keep ’em going here. ‘Don’t roll a gutterball, now you bowl for a cause’. This is excellent. Thank you. Everybody you’re doing so well here. Putting jokes in and having people say, this is the one newsletter I will look forward to because it’s joking around. It really works. Many people say, ‘We can’t joke about our cause it’s too serious’. Well, even if you just joke around about what happens in the office to show that you’re human beings. That’s okay. Even if you want to joke around about something else.

For example, I have an article on my website about [inaudible 00:39:45]. Can we make them funny? One of the ones that I tried to make funny was one about anorexia. And I think it really depends on your audience. I mean, some people will probably get really offended. But you can kind of make fun of what’s wrong with society that makes your mission necessary. So what I did is I used a picture of somebody who had been airbrushed to death. You know how you see those pictures in the supermarket? I was looking at them last night actually. I’m like, that is not a real person. That is not a real image. They are just super, super skinny. That [inaudible 00:40:19] image. So I put that picture in and I used pictures from Photoshop, psdisasters.com. I said, this picture might be called a Photoshop success, if your suspension of disbelief goes up to 11. So, it’s like things with our society that we continue to put these images out there. This is why The Arc nonprofit is so needed, but it wakes people up. It gets them to listen.

Oh, Steven said I’m going to hire you to do some Bloomerang newsletter subject lines. I’d be happy to. Andrea, sort of like an e-card, where you click on something and you create an action. Yeah, you can do that. Joey said, ‘Don’t be a pinhead, bowl with us’. I love that. You could hire some of these people too, Steven. They’ve got some really, really good subject lines here. Gail’s, ‘Can you spare an hour for our kids’? Yeah, that’s humorous. ‘Strike for success’. You guys are so good.

Thanks so much everybody for showing me what you’ve learned. Yeah, your last delivery had a 17% open-rate. It’ll get better. You just have to keep testing. Some newsletter softwares help you make test things and some of them don’t. So here’s some poll questions for you. Have you surveyed your subscribers to see where they hear about you? A yes. B no, we’re far too busy for that. B, B, B, B, B. One A. A couple of A’s. Yeah, see a lot of B’s here.

So, you want to ask them, because you want to see who’s sending you people. Maybe you’ve got some super connectors in your e-newsletter subscribers right now and you want to thank them and encourage them to keep sharing. Next question. Have you surveyed your current donors to see where they hear about you? A yes. B no. C only informally, no process for them.

Okay. It looks like we’ve got a lot of C’s, couple B’s, one A. Right on. For people that are saying C or B, which is the majority of us. Bernie said, ‘How do you survey the one’s that don’t open’? That’s a good question. You can’t survey [inaudible 00:42:50]. You might want to pick a subject line like, ‘Can you do me a favor?’ And just see what say. Then go in there and say, just answer this one question survey. How did you hear about us. Then you’ll find out which of your nonprofit marketing processes are working and which ones aren’t. Amber said, ‘we survey with phone donations’. Excellent.

So you can do that, but also if people give over a certain amount. Like, I know you’re really busy, you might be a one person shop. I know exactly what that’s like, that’s the majority of my experience. Why not even once a year, people who have given you over a certain amount, give them a call. Maybe they’ve given you over $500, or $100, just give them a call. Or, even just email them if they’re given to you online. Hey, how did you hear about us? Just make it from you, straight up. One email. How did you hear about us? We’d love to learn more about you.’

Rosemary said, we’ve tried sending surveys to new donors, we get little to no response. That’s hard. You know, you might want to try sending surveys to your older donors and ask them how they heard. And new donors, you might want to try a paper newsletter. Try emailing it. If it’s a paper survey I mean, try emailing it or vice versa.

‘We offer incentives to the first five respondents or something’. Amber, that’s an excellent idea. That’s actually what Pam Grow does really, really well. She says the first five responses get a $25 Amazon gift card. Or, enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Make a prize. That’s a really good idea. [inaudible 00:44:31] surveyed the effectiveness [inaudible 00:44:33] to communicate with both volunteer and donor or test groups.

Good. And actually, that is the most important question you want to ask in your survey. Not just how they’ve heard about you, but what are your programs they care most about? That’s all that you need to know. You don’t need to know where they’re from, how much money they make, if they have kids or not. You don’t need to know that. Just which of your programs do you care most about and why. So if your nonprofit has four or five programs like most of us do. When I worked up at The Urban League we had a seniors’ program, a kids tutoring program, an advocacy program to register people to vote. After I left they did anti-obesity program, which was really kind of mission-creep in my opinion. And then of course you have the fundraising program on top of that too, right? And on top of that we had another program. With so many programs people didn’t know what to make of us. Some people gave for one reason. Some people gave for another reason.

What we should have done, what I wish I had done is ask people, what aspect of our programs do you care most about? And just give them a list. I would say, here’s a one question survey it will take five seconds. Go. You can also turn this into an ask. If you do a paper survey, or even if you do an online one. But you could say, since you said you cared about this we’re going to keep doing all of these things, would you like to give to this particular initiative. Amber said, ‘Yes, we did just that. To test the validity of the answers we asked if they’d donated within the last 12 months and then validated if they actually did’. Good. I love that. Why you want to survey them for this is because it can drive your communications in everything you do. It can drive what you write your newsletter about, your e-newsletter, your annual report, you’re appeal letter, your blog post, on your website. You can highlight what most people say they care about. That’s powerful. And Amber, [TD] great way to keep communication open, I love that.

So, the cheapest and most useful email clients, MailChimp. Pros. Free for up to 2,000 subscribers. I’m not [inaudible 00:46:49] chimp, it must be working for them. Personally I have issues with MailChimp. It just doesn’t look good on what I want to do with it.

Okay. I’m going to these questions here in a second, on the left-hand side. I will say also, only if you pay will they do autoresponders. For some of us we can change. Some of us we can’t. It’s just that FYI, Emma. For the person who wanted email design, they do custom design services for your email. I’m curious what their cost is. What I think is most important for an email newsletter software is to make custom e-newsletter sign-ups. So making one for your volunteers, one for you donors, one for other kinds of people that just want to get news about you. A lot of people don’t open the images in their emails.

Or, they check their email from their phone and sometimes the custom design is going to look different in that place. So people are using their phones more and more for email, which means that you are going to be hard-pressed to justify a really fancy design, when plain works best for a mobile device. And also, there’s a no consistency in the size and shape of mobile devices. So whether it’s an iPad, or Android Pad, or iPhone, or an Android phone, or a Windows phone, or a Blackberry, if anybody still has one of those. They’re all different shapes. So, again, you want a responsive email newsletter design if you can get that.

iContact. I’ve heard good things about it from colleagues, but the cons is that it’s hard to make custom newsletter sign-ups again. It’s more likely to be marked as spam. And, their customer support is outsourced overseas which can be very frustrating for people. They’re like, I talked with [inaudible 00:48:39] and I don’t really think they understood what I said and I didn’t really get an answer that I wanted. You know?

That can be an issue. ConstantContact. A lot of people use that. Pros. They’re support is in America, and they pick up the phone pretty fast. They connect with it on a perfect database. Cons. It can look different in each email client, which can be frustrating. It’s more expensive. It’s hard to make custom newsletter sign-ups. I don’t know if anybody here knows if they’re doing that now, but last time I checked they’re not doing that. The data you get is not necessarily actionable. You can connect [inaudible 00:49:19] to donor records with this model. If you used in their perfect database. Kathy said, we have Salsa which is very limited.

Louis asked, what does it mean to make custom e-newsletter sign-ups? What that means, Louis, is you make a different little sign-up box for different kinds of people. So, on your website right now it says ‘sign up here for our newsletter’. That’s just one way. You could say, click here to get our 10 ways to be a good volunteer FAQ. You could have one that’s just like, now that you’ve donated, click here to get action updates. When we want you to sign a petition, for example.

I used AWeber for a long time and it really works [inaudible 00:50:07]. Maria and Louis said, you have a custom use newsletter sign-up form. Can you make more than one of those? Can you make different kinds of those in Constant Constant. So, as far as I’ve heard you can’t. But with AWeber and with the next one GetResponse, you can make multiple ones of these. And Gail says, we’ve been using Vertical Response, it’s free, I get many other templates and lists. Wonderful.

So, this is good. They have the best deliverability rates because they’re double opt-in. The double opt-in means, okay, so what happens is they say ‘yes, I want the e-newsletter’ then they have to go to their email and say ‘yes, I want the e-newsletter’ again before they’re officially signed up. That means fewer email sign-ups. It’s a little load bump in the process, or speed bump, and you want to keep those away. Also, if you do speaking engagements for your cause you can’t just add those names. So that’s the downside of AWeber.

A lot of people I know built their list for speaking engagements last year. One person, who took my e-newsletter course last year, she said that she built her list for over 1,000 names with a new nonprofit, just by doing speaking engagements. That’s why your newsletter software has to be able to automatically put these names in from your speaking engagements. Sometimes what’s called WYSIWYG, which is ‘What You See Is What You Get.’ Their WYSIWYG editor is difficult to use.

But, it’s easy to see who opened it, when they opened it, and email directly to those people. So, GetResponse is what I use now and I like it. You can create as many customized e-newsletter sign-up forms as you want. You can segment your list very easily, it’s a single opt-in, tech support is native English speakers. Cons, sometimes the emails don’t get sent so that’s kind of a bummer. And they had a DDoS attack a month ago and that means denial of service, which is like hackers were just slamming their servers trying to get them to give them money, basically, it was like extortion. But that also happened to a lot of other providers too, it wasn’t just them.

Debbie asked, do you recommend sending newsletters a certain amount of times per month and time of day. Debbie, I do. You can look on MailChimp again, they say which time of day and so on, are the best that they’ve found. But you also want to check out what your subscribers respond to. Your subscribers are going to be different than my subscribers, and that’s why I say that.

Paul, I haven’t evaluated an email client from Bloomerang. Gail said, I have really good luck with 8:10 a.m. and 1:10 p.m. newsletters, people will check their emails first thing in the morning and as soon as they return from lunch. I do it two times a month. Gail, thanks for sharing that. I really appreciate that. Samantha says, we use [inaudible 00:52:47] and it’s working great for us. Excellent. I send mine at like 9:30 a.m. and people generally get it and they open it pretty quickly.

We only have a few minutes left here, so I’m going to try to go through these last couple of slides a little bit faster so we have time for questions.

Joey said, opensource, did someone do this for real? Yeah. These are those images that don’t work for your newsletter, or your e-newsletter. People waiting to buy, fuzzy close-ups, thank you notes, administrators in a row, men with mustaches. I know. You wouldn’t think that, but it’s true. According to Sophie’s research with Jerry Hunsinger, these don’t work.

But here’s what does work. Children, animals, pictures of your constituents being helped by your staff, pictures of your staff just helping solve the problem. This is a Little Hero’s Appeal from the RLSB charity from Craig Linton who does the Fundraising Detective blog, and he’s also the Development Director for this charity. They raised 100,000 pounds in 100 days, which is like $200,000. Which is a big deal. Here’s the headlines they used. ‘There’s absolutely nothing more devastating than learning your child is blind. [inaudible 00:54:08] needs your urgent help today. Can you and your organization raise just F100’?

They have how you can help, they have photographs and stories of the kids that they helped, and what their issues are. And so, [inaudible 00:54:24] is the color photo? Well, if it’s an e-newsletter Ann; Yes. [inaudible 00:54:30]] … course for Mow-vember. Yeah, exactly.

Steven said, I made a donation two weeks ago and I got an open-source response. No joke. Gross. Veronica said, when you have confidentiality reasons, you can’t choose client photos, what would you suggest? Veronica, thanks for asking. Christine said, if we get our user’s permission? If you’re a domestic violence shelter though, that’s a fair question to want to have their photo shared?

So what we did when I was working at a domestic violence shelter is we found creative commons licensed photos on Flickr to use and those worked really, really well. You go to flickr.com/creativecommons and you can find them. You can even credit the person who took the photograph at the bottom of your newsletter. So I would do that. Since she has confidentiality things which are valid.

Another person said, I use shadow figures, or backs of people. That’s okay too. But it’s not as powerful as the face.

Gail said, photo release? Get them and keep them on file.

Here’s another example from another nonprofit Housing Matters, I think. No, it is Earl’s Place. So here’s what I think, both the headline and the picture could be stronger, here’s that close-up of a thank you note. What we have here on the right-hand side is called a Google Heat Map. So the Google Heat Map is just telling you where people tend to click on a website, but it also works for your e-newsletters. So here’s people looking in your newsletter to look for something to click on. You want to put it in the setter. With the hot spots. You don’t want put it in the top right. I feel like a lot of people put their donate button there. Christopher said that PhotoPin.com will let you search for Flickr photos that are licensed under created commons. Thank you, Christopher. So, their donate button is at the bottom. I would move it to the top. Those ties are not more important than that donate button. This is what you want people to do.

So Google has done eye studies on this and it is where people are looking. This is where all the ads are, and they’re not looking at the ads. So, that’s kind of like how they are trained to look at your newsletter too.

So, finally, you can see here that [inaudible 00:56:54] and they’re asking people to donate, but their donate button they could be moving it to the left. It doesn’t really matter, you know? Another thing, is a man with a mustache. I know. I would change that. For some reason people like people with naked faces more. You know? Go figure. You guys are so funny. Oh my gosh. So, that’s some of the things we could change here.

And then finally the text-based email. So, one of my very, very favorite e-newsletter writers Marie Forleo, has a text-based newsletter every single week. It’s always going to look the same on anybody’s phone or device because it’s just text, it’s not pictures. And, she has a great headline. ‘Time Sensitive. Please open.’ She has one link in here. One link, one purpose. She wants people to come to her event. If you want to join us, go here to reserve your tickets now. You don’t have to be fancy. This is it. [inaudible 00:57:52] this, boom.

She has millions of dollars too. Somebody said, Tom Selleck has a mustache and millions of dollars. That’s true. But he does come from the ’80’s when it was easier to get famous. So, you guys are so funny. So we have a Q & A time. And I would love to chat with you more about your newsletters. So thanks to everybody for coming today. So, I hope you have some.

Steven Shattuck: And thanks Mazarine, for answering questions along the way. And thanks to everyone for being a good sport and being so interactive. It’s always fun when, I’ve done a lot of webinars and it’s kind of weird when no one says anything and you feel like you’re talking to no one. So I really appreciate everyone asking all those questions and having all that interactivity. That was really fun.

If you do have any last minute questions, please do send them our way. We’ll have Mazarine answer them. While we’re waiting, [inaudible 00:58:45] do sign up for her newsletter. It’s really excellent, so check that out. Check out the link there on the screen. Give her a call, give her an email, follow her on Twitter too. You’re pretty active on Twitter I think, Mazarine. So definitely do that.

Mazarine Treyz: Yeah.

Steven Shattuck: We’ve got one from Kathy, ‘We know that 85% of our email sign-ups are looking for services. Should we separate e-news for them?’ What about segmenting in general? Should people be separating their lists maybe two or three times?

Mazarine Treyz: Yes. Because you’ve got people who’ve already bought Bloomerang, right? And then you’ve got people that you want to buy it, so you’ll talk to them differently. Same for people who have donated and who haven’t donated yet. Hey, would you like to make a donation, just get more involved? But if you have a system for services, they’re going to have a different motivation for reading your newsletter. So it should be about different things. Separate one for volunteers, one for people who want services, one for donors. I know you’re like great. I have that amount of time. No, I don’t. You know? Don’t be ridiculous, right? You don’t want to do that, but you kind of have to. Even if you just do volunteer e-newsletter a month. Which is what we used to do at the domestic violence shelter I worked at. We had a tiny budget and a tiny staff, and we did it. So, even if you’re small you could do once a month. Just start with that.

Steven Shattuck: Yeah. Cool. Well, I know it’s about 2:00 and I don’t want to keep anyone later than we said we would. Is it fair to say that people can email you questions? Would you be willing to do that after the presentation.

Mazarine Treyz: 100%. Yeah. That was on the last slide there. So, if people want my email address it’s right there. It’s info@wildwomanfundraising.com. It’s also at the top of my website. And Steven has very kindly put my website in the chatbox. Sarah, is there any cons to making a newsletter a whole image? Yes, don’t do that.

Steven Shattuck: Don’t do that.

Mazarine Treyz: 100%. Don’t do that.

Steven Shattuck: Cool. Well, do reach out to Mazarine later on. I just wanted people to know that we do do these webinars once a week. We’ve got some really cool ones coming up in August. We’re going to do a presentation on major gifts, we’ve got one on donor data migration, and we’ve got one that’s going to be really cool, about optimizing your silent auctions at events. So, if any of those look enticing to you, do check out our webinar page. Those are totally free and totally educational. So, you can register for those.

Mazarine, thanks. This was really awesome. Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge with us for about an hour or so. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. I think people did based on the chat interactions.

Mazarine Treyz: Yeah, I had a great time everybody. If you have any more questions, I’m sorry we didn’t leave too much time for questions, but I apologize. Feel free to reach out everybody. Thanks Gail. Thanks Terry.

Steven Shattuck: And you did answer a lot of questions, so don’t feel bad.

Mazarine Treyz: Okay. Thanks Susie.

Steven Shattuck: Do check her out. Subscribe to her newsletter. Send us an email. And, register for an upcoming webinar if that looks good to you. Just so everyone knows I will be sending out the slides, again, and a full recording of this presentation. I know we’ve covered a lot of ground, so you can rewatch that, you can send it to colleagues, maybe around your office who you think would benefit from this. No mustaches, right?

Mazarine Treyz: No, no, no. This is a no mustache zone. Everybody, you’re wonderful.

Steven Shattuck: Well, thanks everyone. Thank you all for listening, taking an hour out of your day. I know we are all busy. We will catch you next week. Hopefully we’ll see you at the next webinar. Have a good weekend and look from an email from me later. We’ll say bye now. Thanks Mazarine.

Mazarine Treyz: Thank you. Bye bye.


Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.