Should you publish your nonprofit’s newsletter in print or online?

This issue has been discussed as an either/or for the last several years, but I urge you to consider both. As a marketer with years in the industry before there was an online medium, I know and believe in print. Its qualities include tangibility, portability, feel (it has one). Then again the online medium enables you to be more timely, save postage and printing costs, and enable users to link immediately to actions such as advocacy or giving.

I’ve long concluded that each medium has each advantages and both should remain in your nonprofit’s marketing portfolio. In most cases, I believe it makes sense to publish print and online newsletter editions, for different purposes and audiences. Print for periodic publication (2-4 times a year), for conservative and/or older audiences such as many major donors and board members, as a wrap-up of events and harbinger of what’s to come. Online for timely (at least twice a month) outreach, to motivate action, to get attention on a regular basis from those who know and support your work.

Veteran fundraiser Kim Klein is also an advocate of these parallel newsletter publishing streams. Read her recent article on the topic for more of her perspective.

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Nancy Schwartz on January 6, 2006 in Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments
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  • Johanna,
    Thanks for making this very valid point. Yes, for an organization of your size it is very difficult to produce newsletters in both media.
    Thanks too for making the point about how very different it is to write for online media, vs. for print. Warning!–do not take your print newsletter copy and cut and paste it into your e-newsletter.

  • Johanna Bates

    I realize you’re probably adressing orgs much larger than ours, but producing both print and online publications is easier said than done for many small non-profits. We are an org of 6 people and we support outreach workers who help the uninsured across Massachusetts. We do have a few outreach workers who still don’t have Internet access, and we mail them as much hard copy material as we can. But when we started working more online, it soon became clear that online content needs to be written and presented very differently from the same content in a print piece. We do not have the staff capacity to produce the content twice. It would be great if we could do it, but it’s just not possible for us at this time.

  • Jeff Brooks (Donor Power Blog)

    If forced to pick one or the other, I’d do my newsletter in print, not online. I’ve found newsletters to be a very effective communication and fundraising tool — in print. But online newsletters (meaning newsletter-like emails and/or websites) have consistently done poorly. I think the very thing that makes a print newsletter work — variety and richness of content — is not good online, where focus seems to be the key.

  • Johanna Bates

    We were forced to pick between the two. How did we choose? We asked our constituents what would be most useful to them. We surveyed them, with the help of a NPO consultant who helped us develop the right questions to ask. What our constituents wanted was smaller chunks of news via email, not in a newsletter form. So we now have a blog-model news page and send out email alerts as needed. We’ve gotten a great response from our constituents about the change and it’s made the whole process much more manageable for us, as well.

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