6 Newsletter Ideas to Help Retain Donors

By Mike Snuz, npEngage

Chuck Longfield recently presented and wrote about the difficulty of finding and retaining donors, describing how 3 out of every 4 new donors are not retained.

While nonprofits are challenged with retaining donors, one overlooked cultivation tool may be the Enewsletter.

Many nonprofits send one on a regular basis. And although the enewsletter can present challenges of it’s own – time commitment, content creation – the right type of enewsletter content can help strengthen donor relationships.

And that will help when it comes time for their next ask.

Here are 6 enewsletter ideas to help cultivate and retain donors:

  1. Report back on the impact of donations

    Too often, nonprofits aren’t sure what to write. Too often, donors don’t hear about the outcome of their gifts. Hmmm.

    Regularly include how donations were used. You’ll be “reporting back” to donors. You’ll also show non-donors that gifts are well-spent, which may help get their first gift.

  2. Include more stories

    Skip the bio of your new staff member and your executive director’s intro, and include more success stories. Stories bring your mission to life. They help people better understand why donations are needed.

    Don’t assume subscribers saw your Facebook post or have read the stories on your website. Include them in your enewsletter.

  3. Use dynamic content for different audiences

    Each enewsletter is an opportunity to again thank and cultivate important audiences. Acknowledge recent donors again. Tell event attendees “we couldn’t have done it without you!” Deliver personalized messages to different audiences.

    Email tools that are integrated with your CRM, like Blackbaud NetCommunity, will let you dynamically alter content for different audiences. I’ve also seen nonprofits have great success tailoring the introductory story by audience.

  4. Understand what your subscribers are telling you

    Review your enewsletter stats to see what links subscribers clicked on the most. This may be a good indicator of what topics your subscribers want to hear more about. And if your subscribers feel your content is relevant to them, they’ll read your enewsletter more often.

  5. Better social media cross-promotion

    To engage subscribers on another channel, do more than just include social media links. Briefly tell them what they’ll find valuable or why they should care. For example:

    • Facebook: latest photos & stories
    • Twitter: announcements, related news
    • YouTube: event & program videos
  6. Put your sidebar on the right

Unless you’re using responsive design or a very narrow width, Android phones are cutting off about one-third your newsletter on the right side.  So if you use a left sidebar, people will likely have to scroll horizontally on each line to read your story. Which they won’t do for long.

Use a right sidebar instead. Since people also read email newsletters left-to-right, your stories will catch their attention instead of the sidebar items.


5 Tips for Visually Enticing Nonprofit Websites

Turn your mediocre nonprofit website into an engaging, high-traffic destination

5 Tips for Visually Enticing Nonprofit Websites
By Al Lunt, TechSoup, October 25, 2011

While all websites share usability as a common denominator for their success, usability problems are not normally discovered until a user digs into the website. Holding a user’s attention and interest, visually, when they first come to a site plays an important role in keeping them there.

Holding the interest of a new visitor and encouraging them to explore the website is particularly important for nonprofits because they selling an idea, rather than a tangible product. Communicating your nonprofit’s mission and goals requires careful consideration of the visual factors that will keep users on your website long enough to absorb your intent.

According to award-winning multimedia designer and producer Mike Schmidt at mohawkstreet.com, creating an “emotional connection is often the driving force behind these sites, but is also the driving force behind most marketing.” With limited financial resources and regular reliance on volunteer help to build and maintain websites, nonprofits face a daunting challenge in creating sites that can make those emotional connections with their users.

This article focuses on five basic tips to help nonprofit web builders create visually enticing websites. These tips are not new, earth-shattering revelations and could apply to almost all websites. However, successful implementation of these tips could turn a mediocre but usable nonprofit website into an engaging, high-traffic site through enthusiastic word-of-mouth.

  • Create a clutter-free home page that encourages exploration. A cluttered home page that is overwhelmed with too much text or too many graphics may drive away prospective donors. The home page is often the first impression of a nonprofit that a user sees. It should never be thrown together haphazardly just to establish a web presence. Network for Good, a nonprofit that provides fundraising ideas for other nonprofits, recommends striving “…for simplicity and clarity in design. Your home page should be attractive and engaging, but uncluttered.”



Girleffect.org targets younger people sympathetic to the plight of young girls in developing nations. The home page above the fold has only four navigation choices: Home, Learn, Give, and Mobilize. Scrolling below the fold reveals the call to action “3 Things You Can Do Right Now” — Donate, Spread the Word, and Learn. Fewer choices encourage exploration.

Operation Warm

Operation Warm

Operation Warm distributes new winter coats to needy children in the United States. Above the fold the home page offers three tabs that contain drop-downs with other selections. Scrolling below the fold “What We Do” appears and provides the mission statement in detail. The nonprofit’s title and central picture communicate the mission without ambiguity.

  • Create brand recognition with a logo. Having a logo that reinforces the intent of the nonprofit or serves as a memory aid for the cause helps make a website memorable. Branding through a logo is part of the emotional experience you want users to have when they come in contact with your organization. Creating a logo is an investment and should be a high priority budget item. Ideally a nonprofit logo should be instantly recognizable, convey a sense of the nonprofit name or mission, and remain effective in a variety of colors or mediums.

Feed the Children

Feed the Children

The simple Feed The Children logo of a child with outstretched arms holding a food bowl instantly generates an emotional appeal for support. When linked with the tag line — “It’s who we are. It’s what we do.” — it creates a powerful and memorable image.

The Michael J. Fox Foundationfor Parkinson’s Research

The Michael J. Fox Foundationfor Parkinson's Research

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research uses clever graphic lines that give the illusion of a fox’s body, streaming tail and pointed ears alongside the name of the nonprofit. The selection of the reddish-orange color of the logo and typography also reinforces the name of the charity and its mascot — the fox.

Wounded Warrior Project

Wounded Warrior Project

Some logos work powerfully in stark black and white. The Wounded Warrior Project logo of a soldier carrying a buddy off the battlefield is easily recognizable from its outline although you can’t see the soldiers’ faces. The grayscale banner graphic of rotating photographs of servicemen and women reinforces the intent represented by the logo — taking care of wounded warriors.

  • Create a consistent visual theme. Maintaining a consistent visual theme on a website helps unify the site and makes navigating it easier. Help establish consistency by selecting colors and fonts that complement the nonprofit brand and ensure they are maintained on all pages. Maintaining the same look on the website and mirroring it in promotional materials will reinforce your organization’s brand identity. The visual theme should reflect the culture of the organization and at the same time be targeted to attract the donors, volunteers, and supporters you’re organization is trying to reach.

History Pin

History Pin

History Pin, the 2011 Webby Awards winner in the charitable/nonprofit category, strives to “get generations talking more, sharing more, and coming together more often.” It integrates Google maps, timelines, and uploaded personal photographs to create archives of places, events, and peoples’ stories. With the look being part scrapbook and part school project, it is designed to appeal to both young and old and ultimately encourage intergenerational dialogue.

  • Create a video presence. Compelling video tells the story and helps hold the attention of website visitors. Although a nonprofit website can exist without video, it must compete with those that do. Creating a video that tells the nonprofit story can be an expensive undertaking if professionally done. But, it can also be done using simple point-and-record cameras with minimal editing for a less polished look that still tells your story. However, the payoff cannot be measured just in website hits. A well done video can extend its utility beyond the website itself as a centerpiece of a nonprofit’s marketing effort.

Below are two examples of videos from larger organizations. You can also view samples of low-cost, short videos from TechSoup’s annual Digital Storytelling Campaign.

Charity: Water

Charity: Water

One nonprofit that does a particularly good job with a video centerpiece is the environmental group charity: water. Focused on providing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, charity: water’s video “Water Changes Everything” uses powerful infographics to emotionally engage the viewer in the impact that clean water has around the world.



The nonprofit group Witness not only uses video to tell their story — video is the story. Their tagline “If a picture’s worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth?” powerfully communicates their goal: to use video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. Its call to action not only seeks donations but also volunteers to translate and edit videos of human rights abuses from around the world.

  • Create an emotional connection using still photographs to tell the story. Use static or rotating photographs to “tell the story” of the nonprofit and put a face on the beneficiaries of donor involvement and contributions. Avoid stock photographs that might be used elsewhere because you want your photographs to be part of your branding. Unlike video, still photos allow the user to focus on a moment in time that is frozen, allowing contemplation and creation of a lasting connection.



Kiva has a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Using micro-loans as low as $25 they help create opportunity around the world. The power of the website is that the donor can see the face and read the story of each loan recipient, creating an emotional connection.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure website incorporates a Flash photo banner that can be scrolled to see pictures and read stories of volunteers, breast cancer survivors, and their family members. This connects the user to the cause, its beneficiaries, volunteers, and other donors.


Experienced web designers might recommend against using website templates because they can limit flexibility or have a cookie-cutter look. However, small nonprofits may want to consider them if their in-house design capability is lacking or they cannot afford to outsource their web design requirements. Many nonprofit templates are available online in various content management system (CMS) including the very popular WordPress.com. While not always ideal, starting with a template can provide a basic site that can often be customized later to incorporate more of your organization’s signature branding and feel.


Creating a visually enticing nonprofit website does not require a significant budget. However, the goal of improving your website as your budget allows is a worthy one. Consider these few tips as a starting place to help you evaluate your existing website for areas where you can improve how you tell your nonprofit’s story with enticing visuals.

How to find your niche

By Sarita Harbour

Are you trying to grow your freelance web development or design business? Do you want to spend more time designing websites and less time trying to figure out what the client really wants and needs?

By finding the right web designniche, you can increase productivity and revenue and make your freelance business more profitable.

Web design is a competitive industry, but there are excellent opportunities for those with clear goals. A Google search on “freelance web developer United States” yielded over 51 million results, yet the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that IT jobs for web developers, information security analysts and computer network architects are expected to grow by 22% between 2010 and 2020. According to the website, “Employment of web developers is expected to grow as e-commerce continues to grow. Online purchasing is expected to continue to grow faster than the overall retail industry. As retail firms expand their online offerings, demand for web developers will increase”.

While the study focuses on jobs within IT businesses, the potential for freelance work is also clear. Freelancers just need to learn how to market and run their business. One way to improve your freelance business is to specialize in one or two niches. Choose a profitable niche and you’ll reap the rewards.


Advantages of niche working

Instead of generalizing in many areas, niche web designers can focus their time and energy on narrower areas. You could become an expert on the needs and challenges of one group of clients very quickly, instead of learning little bits about many different businesses, regions or website styles.

Focus on trends in one or two industries

Focusing on a niche market will help you better serve clients in that particular industry. Your productivity and efficiency will improve as well because you won’t be spending as much time figuring out the needs of varied clients. Instead, you’ll work with a smaller group of clients with similar requirements.

Time to develop specialized services

With a narrowed focus, you’ll be better equipped to meet your clients’ web design needs. You’ll be more familiar with new developments and common concerns affecting your target market. By being able to discuss the latest techniques of teeth whitening with dentists or by presenting the evolving demands of tech-savvy real estate customers to realtors, you’ll show prospective clients that you can meet the particular challenges of their businesses.

Narrow your focus to researching and developing new products and services for your niche clients. Ask yourself, “What product or service could I create that fills a particular need for this target market?”

Establish yourself as an expert

Establishing your reputation as an expert in one area of web design or development is easier than establishing yourself as an overall expert in design because there is just too much competition. Clients will have confidence in you if they know that you are a specialist rather than a generalist and that you are familiar with their unique concerns.


Client benefits

Why would a company want to work with a specialist rather than a generalist?

If your web design business was going through an income tax audit, would you rather have the assistance of a general accounting firm or one that specializes in taxes for web designers? A generalist could do the job, but a specialist has more detailed knowledge of your situation.

Having a niche designer means potentially less work for the customer. The client will have fewer revisions to make due to incorrect information or terminology used by the designer in the mockup. They will benefit from your industry-specific services and your knowledge of the language and issues of their business.


Choose an interesting, profitable niche

Find a profitable niche based on your interests, experience and abilities. While you will need to generate enough income to support yourself, money isn’t everything. Don’t work exclusively with one group if you know you will be bored by the work. Either avoid it completely, or include one or two other niches that you’re passionate about or find enjoyable.

Industry niches

Focusing on a single industry or field is one of the simplest ways to specialize. You could quickly get tagged with an awesome nickname—“the wedding planner web design guy,” “the personal injury lawyer web design gal”—which you could incorporate into your marketing and SEO strategies.

Organizations and groups

Creating websites for organizations and groups will quickly generate word-of-mouth referrals and help build your niche business. Sports leagues, service groups, business organizations, religious groups and non-profit or fundraising organizations are examples of groups that need websites. However, think carefully about the financial opportunities before deciding to work with a particular group. Some organizations, such as business-networking services, are more profitable than others—although volunteering your services for a charity website is a worthwhile endeavour and a good way to showcase your skills and add to your portfolio.

Regional and local web development

Despite the global scale of the Internet, some customers prefer dealing with local businesses and having face-to-face meetings. Discover local business opportunities by looking around your area to see how many organizations need websites.

Businesses are finding a web presence to be increasingly important in attracting customers. Depending on the population and activities in your area, you might be able to concentrate on web design services in your city, region or state. You could fill a niche by focusing on just one industry in your region.

Website style

Do you enjoy creating e-commerce sites, or do you prefer setting up informational websites? Maybe you only want to work with WordPress. Promoting yourself as a web designer who provides very particular website styles to a range of businesses is another way to find a niche.

Renos, upgrades and speciality services

In the construction world, there are renovation businesses that will fix problems that the initial contractors left behind. Web developers and designers could do the same thing. Find a niche in web design renovations or upgrades, perhaps for a certain industry, region or type of service. For example, you could upgrade websites to be mobile-friendly or to better engage users.


Still can’t think of a niche?

Turn to the media. Look at the headlines in the business section of the newspaper or on a news website. Which businesses are expanding and getting funding these days? Also, look at your previous clients. Which ones did you really enjoy working with, and which ones are busy and growing?


Niche-picking pitfalls

As you consider different areas to focus on, avoid niches that are too small, that you don’t like, or that don’t pay.

Choosing a niche that is too small could result in an unsustainable business. While you might be passionate about creating websites for fans of 17th-century German literature, you’ll likely earn more by making websites for clients with bigger marketing budgets. Traditional fields such as medicine, law, accounting, dentistry, financial services and healthcare all might be lucrative niches for freelance web designers. But before committing yourself, make sure you are willing to invest time and energy in learning about that particular subject and figuring out whether you’ll enjoy interacting with the people who you’ll be working with and for.


To niche or not to niche

Not all freelance web designers are sold on the idea of working in a niche. In fact, you might cringe at the thought of turning away clients who don’t fit in your niche. But remember: while large web development firms have the resources to profitably serve a wide variety of clients, a freelancer doesn’t.

If you’re still on the fence, see how many hours you spend gathering information and preparing work for your clients. If you charge by the project, figure out how much money you would save if you already had this information from previous projects. For example, if you have to spend four hours researching, at $75 an hour, that’s $300 in lost revenue, because you could have spent those four hours working on other projects.