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Designing Your Nonprofit Organizations' E-zine
by: Heidi Richards

E-ZINES - The alternative of choice for many organizations are a great way to market yours. All you need is an e-mail account and permission from your stakeholders to send the e-zine. In fact, I have found e-zines to be so powerful that I write and produce five a month. They are:

Self-Marketing News - a marketing newsletter for small to mid sized businesses

PetalsNCents - a marketing newsletter for the floral industry

Creating A Legacy - a newsletter for the nonprofit community, and

Ramblin' Rose - a newsletter for my retail customers.

WECommerce News - a newsletter for Women Who do Business on the web

The first thing you must do is collect your customers/clients e-mail addresses. We collect them when they call, visit my retail business, answer surveys, or enter our contests. We ask for an e-mail address every time we have interaction with them.

Formatting your E-zine

Keep it basically the same from issue to issue. Consistency in the format – can apply to many marketing strategies on the web. That includes keeping it consistent with the colors and look of your website to consistent categories in your newsletter. Consistency helps your stakeholders understand what is coming next – so they continue to look forward to receiving it.

Test new strategies with your newsletter – but you also need to keep certain things similar so that you do not confuse your stakeholders. This will decrease the amount of un-subscribes you will receive.

Length and frequency of delivery – Make it easy to read and brief. The length of your e-zine will depend on the frequency in which you publish. If you publish your e-zine once a month including two to three articles is the norm, however if you publish on a daily or weekly basis, then I recommend only one short article and or a tip. Too much or too little content will quickly drive readers away.

Subject Line – The subject line of your e-zine should be consistent. You can use the name of your e-zine, your organization or another catchy title. The main thing is to use the same subject line with each issue.

Table of Contents – "Table of Contents" or “In this Issue” should appear at the beginning of the e-zine. This to let people know what is in this issue. Most people scan the table of contents see if there is an article that interests them..

Categories – Should remain the same from issue to issue. They could include:

Editor's or Executive Directors Remarks – A great place to welcome people and thank them for their support.

One to three articles – Lead with the most important or interesting article. This will get people to read the rest of your e-zine.

Volunteer recognition and Thank-you’s

What's New in the organization – Such as events and happenings.

Resources – Things your readers would appreciate receiving such as complimentary reports, notices about upcoming seminars that would be of benefit to them as well as a book review or two are great items to put in the resource section of your e-zine.

Advertising and Sponsorship Support – Here’s where you thank your supporters of the organization and advertisers of your e-zine. Getting sponsors and advertisers to put ads in your e-zine can make it cost you virtually nothing to produce. One word of caution, follow the 80/20 rule so people won’t feel that all you are trying to do is sell them something – that means your e-zine should be 80 content and nor more than 20% advertising.

Questions, Comments, Reader feedback – A great place to answer stakeholders questions that other may also be interested in knowing, comments and by all means any testimonials you receive from your readers.

General Information – How to contact the organization, subscribe, unsubscribe, refer others to the organization, privacy statement and how to support the e-zine or organization.


HTML e-mail – although HTML is not the preferred way for some readers, all of my e-zines are HTML format. They simply look better.

ASCII text - regular text email format, which includes up to 65 characters per line.

Web based - posting your e-zine on the web.

Font - use a generic font such as Arial, Times Roman, Courier, or Helvetica

When designing your e-zine, here are some things to keep in mind:

Use a Template – This provides consistency and you can make changes gradually over time.

Spell Check – Always. Period.

Proofread – Have someone else proofread. I have a professional editor read each issue. I read it over two or three times between edits and so does the editor.

Answer Every Email – When someone writes an email to your organization, there’s someone on the receiving end waiting for an answer. You owe it to your readers to respond.

Inform, Entertain, and Serve – People sign up for email newsletters to gain knowledge, information, to get involved, and to be entertained.

Cultivate contributors – Take your time, build interest, gain trust, then ask for money. Include links to giving pages. This allows supporters to make a contribution via credit card or a pledge. If your e-zine has what readers want, you will have a much higher likelihood of increased giving. An e-mail newsletter is an excellent tool for finding new donors online, and increasing its circle of stakeholders.

The technology you use to disseminate your e-zine must be secure and have the capabilities you either now need or will in the future.

One of the most important things we had to deal with was when our lists started growing (beyond 250); we were very limited in sending through our original e-mail account (AOL). They have rules and sometimes will freeze an account if you send too many at once. The format would also get botched sometimes. The lists became unmanageable when we had to remove the unsubscribes and duplicates. Finding the ones who wish to unsubscribe can be challenging. We switched to another service hoping they could send our newsletters and maintain our lists. It was a good service; however, we didn't like the look of our newsletter. It had limited capabilities (no bold or italic). Since I'm the creative type, I didn't want my ezines to look like everyone else's. We have now found a program we are very happy with. There is no monthly fee, just a one-time purchase fee. It is called Group Mail Pro - Mailing List & Group Management Software. And it only costs $79.95 (and you own it). For more information visit Group Mail Pro or follow this link: (


Have a subscription form on your website!

Have a sign up sheet at the office and at all events. If you speak before a group, make sure you mention your e-zine. Some people are bound to want to sign up.

Promote it with postcards in your monthly statements or on your business card.

Tell anyone you think might be interested. This includes current stakeholders, contributors and volunteers.

Offer a free report when people sign up. When people subscribe to Legacy they receive not one but two reports just for trying us out.

When you use e-mail for an outgoing message - to cultivate, to inform, to request action, to ask for money - you are creating public relations. Good things happen with E-zines; increased visibility, increased contributions and goodwill. If you plan your e-zine right, give it an interesting title and offer your stakeholders benefits, your e-zine will be a success! Happy Writing!

© 2005 - Heidi Richards

About the Author: Heidi Richards is the author of The PMS Principles, Powerful Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business and 7 other books. She is also the Founder & CEO of the Women’s ECommerce Association, International (pronounced wee-k+) – an Internet organization that “Helps Women Do Business on the WEB.” Basic Membership is FREE. Ms. Richards can be reached at



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