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4 Tips to Power Volunteer Engagement with Your Newsletter

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Volunteers provide your nonprofit with the support you need to execute mission-critical initiatives. Retaining their trust and interest in your nonprofit determines your volunteer program’s success, so you need to pull out all the stops to keep them inspired

That’s where volunteer newsletters come in. 

Your nonprofit might already leverage the newsletter format to share updates about your volunteer program. But, newsletters are one of the best ways to level up your marketing efforts and drive conversions as well. Let’s explore these marketing-savvy strategies that can help you transform your newsletter into a valuable retention and engagement tool.

Write interesting subject lines.

Optimizing your newsletter’s subject line is the best way to catch your volunteers’ attention and get them to click through to read more. Studies show that 69% of readers report emails as spam based on the subject line alone. Thus, only the most strategic and captivating subject lines will make the cut. Here are some tips for writing an effective subject line for your newsletter:

  • Keep it straightforward and impactful. The most engaging subject lines are under 60 characters, so use direct, specific, and action-oriented language without writing a novel. For example, a line like “Volunteer today to provide a family with 30 meals!” clearly communicates the importance of the cause and provides a specific impact of the work.
  • Personalize your subject line. Your volunteers are more likely to click on an email addressed directly to them than a generic one. Create mail-merge templates for your newsletter that integrate with your CRM so your volunteers receive personalized messages effortlessly. 
  • Ask a rhetorical question. Create intrigue around your newsletter by asking a rhetorical question in the subject line. For instance, you might ask “What’s new in our volunteer community? Find out in this month’s newsletter!” This tactic sparks curiosity in your audience and makes them want to learn about your updates through the newsletter. 

Keep in mind that while you should make your subject lines interesting, they should always stay relevant to the newsletter’s content. Otherwise, email platforms might flag your newsletter as spam and you won’t reach as many volunteers. 

Send different newsletters to different volunteer groups.

While your newsletter is usually a general overview of important updates, you can refine its content to align with specific segments of your volunteer population. Catering to these factors can help you pinpoint the right volunteer for the job and offer them a more fulfilling experience. Here are some criteria you can use to segment your newsletter content:

  • Skillset. A volunteer shift for a meal packer or box mover will look very different from someone who’s sitting at a desk checking people in for programs. Create curated newsletters and send them to volunteers based on their skills and the tasks that help them thrive.
  • Previous involvement with your nonprofit. If you have volunteers that enjoyed participating in a similar project in the past, consider reaching out with a curated newsletter about this year’s iteration of the program. 
  • Availability. Allowing volunteers to pick their own schedules is crucial to keep them on board. If you have retired volunteers that are free during the weekdays, you might send them a newsletter highlighting activities during those times while sending working professionals weekend volunteering information. 
  • Location. If your volunteers live far from your office, they might be interested in options closer to home. Consider offering newsletters specifically aimed toward virtual volunteering opportunities to involve as passionate volunteers from near and far.

Segmentation only works if you have a clean and up-to-date volunteer database. Double the Donation’s guide to email appends suggests appending volunteer email addresses and deleting outdated information regularly so you’re always effectively reaching your target audience. Also, ensure that the information you’re spreading across different iterations of your newsletter is consistent and accurate so nothing slips through the cracks.

Highlight volunteer success stories.

While your volunteers participate in your program for selfless reasons, they’ll likely appreciate a shout-out for their hard work now and then! In fact, public recognition is one of the best ways to encourage long-term volunteer retention and engagement. Your newsletter provides the perfect opportunity to do so. 

A classic way to recognize star volunteers is to devote a section of your newsletter to the volunteer of the month. You can pick this member based on a variety of factors, such as their total hours worked, the result of their work, or if they recruited more volunteers through their personal network. Recognize them with a photo and a message of appreciation for their contributions. 

Also, you could use your newsletter to let volunteers discuss one of their greatest passions: your organization. Interview a standout volunteer about their experience with your nonprofit and write it in a blog post. Then, link the interview post and a photo to your newsletter so they get a public thank-you. 

While planning your newsletter’s volunteer appreciation sections, ensure you’re fully transparent about how you’ll recognize them and which information you make public. If a volunteer would rather remain anonymous, opt for a personal thank-you from your organization. 

Incorporate compelling multimedia elements.

One of the main ways newsletters differ from traditional emails is the ability to implement your nonprofit’s custom branding. When you think of branding, you might think of your color scheme, logo, and slogan. While these are all important to include, you can supplement these essentials with engaging multimedia. Fifty & Fifty suggests adding the following to your newsletter:

  • Videos and images of beneficiaries or other volunteers in action
  • Educational infographics
  • Embedded links to social media and donation page
  • Audio elements from podcasts or webinars
  • Interactive elements, such as polls and quizzes about your nonprofit’s history

All of these components help your volunteers connect emotionally with your mission and beneficiaries, inspiring them to take action and be a part of the change.

Wrapping Up: Next Steps

Even once you’ve revamped your newsletter and sent it to volunteers, your work isn’t done! To truly make your volunteer newsletter great, you need external feedback. This allows you to address any of your team’s blind spots and align the newsletter with your volunteers’ preferences. 

As long as you keep your volunteers’ interests at heart and show your genuine appreciation for their support, you can transform your newsletter into a powerful volunteer retention tool and even convert them into donors.


About the Author: 

Javan Van Gronigen

Creative Director | Founder

As Founder and Creative Director of Fifty & Fifty, Javan is the tip of the proverbial spear. Javan started his digital design career 20 years ago as Art Director for what is now one of the world’s largest digital agencies (Mirum, a JWT Company). He then moved on to Invisible Children where he was responsible for managing the team and all digital assets through the entire historic Kony 2012 campaign. At Fifty & Fifty, Javan has participated in and led every project, including 300+ websites, campaigns, and brands.