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Newsletter Best Practices


Newsletters play an essential part in any NGO’s overall marketing and communications. Thus, in this article I’ll be breezing you through some key points that you may find useful when working with your very own newsletter campaigns.

From avoiding being filtered as SPAM to tips and tricks on developing a mobile-friendly newsletter, let’s breeze through a quick list of tips that can either help you effectively begin an EDM (electronic direct marketing) campaign, or further improve your existing one.


Your Tool of Choice

Successfully managing your newsletters would be greatly influenced by your tool of choice. Though there's no definitive answer to “which is the best EDM provider?” you should, however, take into consideration that your provider should at least be able to give you the following essential features:

  • selection of pre-made layouts or newsletter templates
  • a perfomrance tracker to help you gauge your open rate and click through rate
  • and a bulk contact upload feature - since it's really tedious to upload hundreds of contacts at a time 


There are a ton of free online services that would be able to provide you with these. Some choices include MailChimp and even Wix – which can also double as your web design app. But for a good list of alternatives, here’s an article that could definitely help you out: 5 Best Email Marketing Services >>


Use a Mobile-Friendly Layout

Today, more and more people are checking their email over their phones or other mobile devices. That said, choosing a mobile-reflexive, or at least mobile-friendly, layout for your newsletters should be a major consideration. Don’t fret though, it’s not entirely difficult to develop mobile-reflexive layouts. In fact, most EDM providers today such as Mailchimp and Mailer Lite provide such layouts, pre-made already, for free.

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If creating an entirely different layout would be too much work for you, then perhaps integrating little tweaks to your current layout would be a good alternative. John Wilpers from provides a couple suggestions that could prove to be useful. These include:

  • using larger fonts and shorter sentences/paragraphs for a seamless reading experience over smaller screens
  • decreasing file sizes of images to allow faster download, or to be able to open your newsletters faster
  • following a single column layout

EasyFor more tips, you can read the full article here: 12 Tips to make your Newsletter Mobile-Friendly >>


Keep Your Subject Line Concise

The quality of your subject line could truly affect how your subscriber would react to your newsletter. Looking through tips, the rule of thumb is to keep your subject lines as short as 25-30 characters (not words!). This range is appropriate for mobile devices as mobile email apps only show subject lines with that length. Anything beyond that would be reduced to an ellipses (…)  though, so keep it short and cut straight to the point.

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Another factor is your choice of words. Remember, accidentally choosing a buzzword might trigger SPAM filters, so avoid using them in your subject line as much as possible. What are these buzzwords? The most popular example would be the use of ‘Free’. So try to work your way around that word if you may.

If you’re on Mailchimp, they also have a built in tool that can test how effective your subject line is. This can be done during Setup stage while making your campaign. Here, Mailchimp provides you with a rating based on those words'/phrases' performance in past newsletters. The higher the open rate of those newsletters are, the better the choice of words or phrases. This can be really helpful for you when trying to pen down an engaging subject line.


Track and Analyze

Last but not the least, tracking. It’s best to always have a tracking system for your newsletters. Through it, you’ll be able to see how well it’s done, who’s opened it and which articles had the most clicks. Most cloud-based EDM providers already have this built-in and would even automatically generate reports as soon as they’re sent out. However, you should make it a habit to visit this every so often.

So, what are the important bits? Essentially, there are two main things to look at: Opens (number of times your newsletter was opened), and Clicks (number of times your articles or links in your newsletter have been visited).

Remember, Opens and Clicks can be affected by a variety of reasons. But based on my experience, time and day of sending are some of the major factors. These directly affect how available your subscriber is to actually open, let alone see, your newsletter. Though there are studies that suggest specific days and what time is best, it’s always best to find out on your own through your own tracking. More often than not, your case might essentially be different.

There you have it, four simple tips to help you develop an effective newsletter campaign. So, what are you waiting for? Start drafting your newsletters now as your subscribers await!