The Best Practice Blog-Driven Newsletter Formula

Nonprofits love their emails newsletters and for good reason! Your email list holds your most committed supporters, and it feels so good to communicate with them!

But does your blog languish at the cost of putting out emails? Does your website feel stale and hasn’t been updated in two months?

Despite the benefits of a good email newsletter, too many nonprofits ignore their websites while pouring all their energy into newsletters. At best, some organizations post PDFs of their newsletters as “blog posts”, despite all the problems with PDFs on nonprofit websites. It doesn’t have to be this way!

If you blog first and share those posts in your newsletter, you get more engagement on your website while still producing a vibrant newsletter. It’s literally twice the results with the same effort.

(If you have WordPress, you have a blog)

You might not think of your website as having a blog or yourself as a blogger. But it does, and you are!

Your “blog” might be labeled “News” or “Announcements” or “Updates”, but whatever you call it, your WordPress website has a page devoted to showing all your Posts—capital “P” as opposed to “Pages”—in chronological order. That’s a blog!

Some people get turned off by the word “blog”, but don’t let that scare you away. For the purposes of this article at least, “blogging” is just regularly publishing new material to your site about news, events, your impact, media coverage, and whatever else is new and exciting at your organization. If you have the capacity for an email newsletter, you have the capacity to blog.

Infographic: Power your newsletter with blog posts

Now that you’re sure you have a blog, here’s the magic formula:

  1. Post engaging and bite-size articles to your blog.
  2. For each newsletter, pick your best posts (even 2 or 3 is enough!) and link to them in your newsletter.
  3. Add a custom welcome message or something else exclusive to the newsletter. You want to make sure your newsletter subscribers still feel special.

Executed correctly, this format is engaging and primarily assembled with writing you already have!

Diagram: Three blog post snippets in a newsletter link back to the blog posts on your website.The Benefits of Blogging First

 

If you’re not sold yet, making this change comes with all the benefits you get from following blogging best practices.

While many email newsletters are just digital versions of a formerly printed product, blogging is the publication medium of the web. That means it’s more user-friendly, engaging, and future-proof! Plus, doing it this way is simply a best practice among nonprofit professionals.

Start Today!

While it might take a few months to get used to this new workflow, this formula only requires a bit more effort than you already put into your newsletter while powering your blog, social media, and newsletter all at once! That’s a huge win and will surely expand your reach and quality of your communications.

Not sure what to write about? Here are 11 ideas for nonprofit blog posts to get you started!

Once you make the change, you’ll have a hard time ever seeing why you did things the other way around. So stop reading and go get blogging! (And then emailing. 😉)

Write Blog Post, Share Link, Engage Followers

Ever wondered why you should blog? Are you stuck and lacking motivation to write? This post will get you inspired and excited about the possibilities of blogging to support your organization.

One of the newer pages on Nonprofit WP is “Blogging Best Practices.” There is a ton of great info on that page, including tips for blogging frequently, ideas for blog posts, and best practices for crafting the perfect post. But the crown jewel of the page is this diagram showing how you can use your blog to turn passive followers into engaged supporters.

Blog + Social Media = Engagement

Take a look, and then we’ll break it down…

Blog posts give you content to generate social media traffic back to your website. Your website houses the important calls to action like sign up, donate, and contact.

 

It’s a tricky little diagram but here’s what’s going on. Start in the middle column:

  1. First, publish interesting content about your nonprofit to your website’s blog.
  2. Next, share links to your blog posts on social media.
    Make sure those posts have good “Meta Descriptions” and “Featured Images” so they generate nice looking link previews!
  3. Instead of reading what’s on your Facebook page or in a Tweet, users visit your site to read your blog post. Make sure it’s worth their time.
  4. Once on your website, users can reach important calls to action like the donate page or a volunteer signup form.

See what you did there? Instead of a user passively reading your email newsletter or watching something on Facebook, they can act on their interest in your cause and become an even bigger supporter of your organization!

So here’s that successful recipe for engagement through blogging one more time:

  1. Post to your blog.
  2. Share your posts on social media.
  3. Drive traffic back to your website.
  4. Use calls to action to generate deeper engagement.

For even more in-depth information about sharing to social media and other ways to promote your blog posts, check out this guide on “How to Promote Blog Posts for Nonprofits” from Wired Impact.

The Right Calls to Action

The best calls to action in a blog post are timely, relevant, and not too pushy.

If you ask for donations in every post, the request loses impact. Urging people to contact their senator at the end of a new staff member profile probably doesn’t make much sense either. Provide a single clear call to action at the end of your blog posts and make sure it relates closely to the content above it. Committed visitors who have actually read (or browsed) the blog post will be much more likely to click the link and support your nonprofit!

Educate Your Visitors (and Google)

Similar to call to action links, make sure you’re cross-linking from your posts to relevant web pages. Mention a program with it’s own page? Link to it! Discussing an important policy proposal? Link to your position paper. Mentioning a staff person? Link to their bio.

While these links may not drive engagement in the moment, they allow users to learn more about your organization and follow their interests through your site. A website visitor may need repeated exposures before taking a big step up in activity with you, so be patient and keep them interested.

As a bonus, linking from blog posts to other relevant information on your site helps search engines better understand who you are and what you do. In the future, this means people interested in your cause are more likely to find your nonprofit in search results!

Owning Your Content

WordPress lets you “own your content”, because it lives in a database on a hosting plan you have access to. It’s also easy—relatively speaking—to export that data into a new system should the need arise.

Tons of nonprofits post to Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram that only lives on those sites. By posting first to your blog, you know that if a social media site loses active users or reduces access to your followers—cough-FACE-hack-BOOK-wheeze-#%$@!you still have the information safely stored on your website.


Blogs are powerful communication tools for reporting on your work and sharing your impact with your most committed followers. When fully optimized, a blog can become an engagement tool itself, bringing your social users closer to your organization where they can help you make the world a better place!

The Building Blocks of WordPress

Of the three recent additions to this site, the WordPress 101 for Nonprofits page is probably the most exciting.

Why? It’s a great overview of the entire site for new users, but it also has the first Nonprofit WP infographic to help readers really grasp the component parts of WordPress.

The Building Blocks of WordPress: Five interlocking blocks from the top show the theme for design, plugins for features, media files stored on the server, the database with text content and settings, and WordPress "core" files powering the whole site.

Let’s quickly go through each piece of the WordPress tower from bottom-to-top to really understand it.

Know that like most things on this site, this graphic focuses on “self-hosted” WordPress and not WordPress.com. For those unfamiliar with the difference, here’s our explainer.

WordPress Core

The “core” files of WordPress are what make everything else work. You can download them for free on WordPress.org and install on your website host.

WordPress is often described as a solid foundation for a website, and this graphic takes that description literally! It’s a foundation because nothing works without it and also because it allows you build a million variations of different designs and website features based on your needs.

Database

The second part of a standard WordPress site installation is the database. While everyone who installs WordPress has the same “core” files, the information stored in the database is what makes the site yours. The database contains all the settings and information on your site. That means things like:

  • Your website’s timezone
  • Your username, email, password (securely encrypted!), and preferred administrative color scheme
  • The title, body field, excerpt, and publication date of your very first blog post
  • The title, caption, and alternative text for your images (Speaking of which…)

Media

Just like each person’s database contains information that’s unique to their site, WordPress supports uploading many common types of image, video, audio, and document files for use on your website. Every file you upload, ends up in the “Media Library where it’s stored for future use.

  • Need a logo on your website? Upload it to the Media Library.
  • Putting your Annual Report PDF on the website? It goes to the Media Library!
  • Love the awesome infographic in the post? It’s in the Media Library of NonprofitWP.org!

WordPress makes it easy to upload files, but make sure you keep them organized to get the most from them.

Plugins

The plugins “block” actually represents a layer of lots of little blocks. Plugins are what add features to your site any time you need it to do anything that WordPress “core” can’t do on its own.

  • What to add a donation form to your website? You might use the Give plugin.
  • Are your website’s search results not good enough? SearchWP is great for that.
  • Want to add custom documentation right in the WordPress admin? WP Help works great.

There are thousands of free WordPress plugins as well as lots of good paid ones. Just make sure you carefully vet each plugin before installing it and see if there’s a recommended plugin for your need before searching yourself.

Themes

The theme of your website is the very top block since it determines how the website looks. The words you enter into the database are just little bits of data, but the theme tells them where to go (along with images), the font and font size, and how they change when viewed on a phone as compared to a desktop computer.

Unlike plugins, a site only has one theme since a website only has one design. In many ways, the theme you choose is one of the most important decisions you make, so don’t miss the guide on how to choose a theme and the list of recommended themes.


When it comes to building a website with WordPress, you need to build the most solid tower for your nonprofit so it supports your mission and activities as you try to improve the world! WordPress is a great choice for many organizations because how you put the pieces together is up to you.