Friday, June 18, 2010

Spending Too Much Time on Your Website and E-News?

Kivi Leroux Miller, who blogs at Nonprofit Communications, is the author of the newly released book, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause.

Kivi is stopping by my blog today on her virtual book tour with a guest post and a drawing for book buyers. Purchase the book today, Friday, June 18, and forward the receipt to and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a free review of your website for social media readiness by me (Marion).

The book is a hands-on survival guide for small nonprofits and communications departments of one, and includes an entire section on doing it yourself without doing yourself in, with many time-saving tips. In this guest post, Kivi offers some advice on saving time on your website updates and e-newsletters.

Nonprofits love all the benefits that email newsletters and websites provide: they are fast, affordable ways to stay in touch with supporters. The only problem is that producing and updating them regularly can be anything but fast. Some nonprofit communicators report spending the equivalent of several days per month on a monthly e-newsletter and monthly website updates. In most cases, that’s way too much time.

Here are three tips to help you reduce the amount of time you spend producing a monthly e-newsletter and website update. These tips require some planning upfront, but once you have these systems in place, you should be able to reduce the time you spend each month on these tasks to about one day’s work.

1. Minimize design time by using templates. Don’t waste a bunch of time fretting about where to put the pictures, what colors and fonts to use, etc. For your website, use a content management system (CMS) with a template. CMSs make updating your site very fast and easy because you update text and pictures without mucking around with the site design. My favorite CMS is Wordpress, but there are many open-source (free) and paid solutions available.

Use a simple, clean template for your email newsletter. It should have a consistent look from issue to issue. Don’t try to make your e-newsletter look like your website. An e-newsletter design with one main column and one sidebar column is fine. Right-justify photos in the main column and wrap text around them. Your email newsletter service provider should have many templates to pick from, or you can have a web designer create a simple template for you (the html code in an email newsletter is the same code that websites use).

2. Shorten your email newsletter. Most nonprofit e-newsletters are simply too long. People just don’t read emails that require them to scroll, scroll, and scroll some more. Try to keep your e-newsletter to under 1,000 words. A single-topic, focused newsletter of 500 words is even better, because it’s more likely to be read. Shorter newsletters mean you have less to write, which saves you time!

3. Streamline your review and decisionmaking process. The back-and-forth, back-and-forth is enough to drive anyone crazy and eats up too much time. Streamline your content creation and approval process with three documents:

An editorial calendar that says what you are going to write about and when. For a monthly newsletter, try to forecast 3-6 months at a time. This minimizes (and hopefully eliminates) all the wrangling at deadline time about what to include. Coordinate your website updates with your e-news content so you can use much of the same writing, with minor tweaks, in both places.

A style guide that outlines decisions about the type of articles you’ll include, word use (what you call certain things, how you describe them), abbreviations, fonts, colors, etc. This forces everyone to agree ahead of time on decisions that will remain constant from issue to issue, so you aren’t correcting the same mistakes over and over.

A simple decision flow chart to outline who does what, and how long it should take. For example, if the communications director writes the newsletter, the program staff get two business days to provide comments. Communications director produces a second draft, which goes to the executive director (or whoever has final approval) for another two business days. Final changes are made and it’s out the door.

For more time-saving tips, pick up a copy of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause. Remember, get your copy today and email it to to win a free website consultation!

Thanks Kivi for sharing your expertise with us. I used your tips on my own eNewsletter and it was my best one ever. You can sign up for my eNewsletter in the sidebar.

Marion's eNewsletter

No comments: