nonprofit email marketing

Does your nonprofit still send out PDF newsletters? If you use PDFs for your nonprofit email marketing, you are putting so many limitations on yourself.

Even though PDF newsletters are easy for the sender to create, ease of creation does not necessarily translate to ease of use for the reader. Here are 10 ways you are doing yourself a disservice by using PDF newsletters for your non profit email marketing.

1.    You can’t track readership

When you send out PDF newsletters, you are basically sending out emails and holding your breath and hoping that everyone you mail will get the emails and read them.

However, this might not be the case. You need to track your audience behavior, so as to know which areas you need to improve on. Without data and analytics to back up your findings, you will keep doing the same wrong things and not even know it. For all you know, no one could be reading your emails.

2.  It’s hard to read PDF documents on mobile devices

41% of people read their emails on their mobile devices, while 75% of Gmail users access their accounts through mobile phones. Now imagine these people trying to download and read your PDF newsletter on their phones while they are on the go. They could be on the train, bus or even in the washroom. Chances are that they will not go to the trouble of downloading the PDF attachment and read it.

If your email is so important, the user may plan to come back to it later when they are on their desktop. But, they are likely to forget by the time they sit down on their desk. This means that they will not read your newsletter.

3.  Poor deliverability

Your mail is likely to end up in the spam folder, especially if it has an offer included in it. Most email providers put filters in place to check for spammy emails. Since PDF newsletters are so clunky and heavy, they can be mistaken for spam, so they even won’t land in your reader’s inbox, further reducing the chances of your newsletters being read.

4.  More barriers for readers to overcome

nonprofit email marketing

PDF newsletters require more clicks to access them. The more hoops readers have to jump through so as to access your content, the less likely they would be willing to do so.

Since PDF newsletters give your readers the added responsibility of having to download them, some readers will just forfeit reading the newsletter altogether. Since people tend to unsubscribe from annoying emails, they will want to be removed from your mailing list, which brings us to the next problem.

5.  Hard for readers to unsubscribe

It is not easy for readers to unsubscribe from your mailing list. The unsubscribe process is not obvious and most readers won’t even know how to leave your mailing list if they wanted to.


This can result in them marking your emails as spam. Eventually, your email will be blacklisted by service providers. This means that any emails that you send from that email will be unlikely to end up in the recipients inbox, rather they would end up in the spam folder.

You might include instructions on how your readers can unsubscribe from your mailing list by requesting them to send you an email telling you that they no longer want to receive your newsletters, as I’ve seen some people do. The only problem with this is that it creates more work for both the sender and the recipient, since it’s a manual process.

You might even forget to remove the subscriber from your mailing list and continue sending them messages, which will create a bad relationship.

6.  Limited media

PDFs give you limited access to the kind of media that you can include in your content. It will be hard for you to incorporate videos and audios in your newsletters since these media formats are not supported.

7.   Hard to design

If you are not a professional designer, your PDF formatting will be poor.  Bad or plain layout might not be appealing for your readers and they may not be motivated to keep reading your newsletters.

You will have to hire a professional designer if you want your newsletter to be well laid out. This means additional costs for you.

8.  Hard to maintain your contacts database

With PDF newsletters, it is quite challenging to maintain your contacts database. You might have your contacts listed somewhere in an excel file or in your email contact lists.

This gives you the additional problem of trying to ensure that all your donors have been included in your mailing list. This can be quite a headache, not to mention that if you keep sending out bulk messages to many people, you may be seen as a spammer and your email address marked as spam.

9.  PDF is not supported by some operating systems

PDF documents can be only viewed in Mac and Windows based computers. If any of your reader’s use a Linux operating system or UNIX, they will not be able to view your PDF newsletter, since PDF files are not supported by these operating systems.

After having read all the above points and seeing what a disservice you are doing to yourself, what then should you do?

That’s quite easy. Send your emails in a format that will create a great user experience for the end reader. This will increase chances of your newsletters being read and your subscribers being more responsive.

HTML newsletters are the answer to your nonprofit email marketing problem. By the time you get to the end of this post, you will have learned why switching to HTML format is the best solution for your non profit email marketing.

Moreover, it is quite cheap to get started using HTML newsletters and you can even get started for free. Most people who send out PDF newsletters do so mainly because they want to avoid spending any money on their newsletter creation process. Well, you can send HTML newsletters completely free of charge and get to look professional while doing so.

What Are HTML Newsletters?

HTML newsletters are newsletters that have been formatted as WebPages. They use a lot of color, graphics, columns and links. For instance, like  in the image below.


Don’t worry; you do not have to be technologically savvy to start using them. They are so basic  that anyone without any experience in handling them can easily learn how to create newsletters from scratch in this format. You also do not need to know any coding skills to use HTML newsletters for your nonprofit email marketing.

To get started using HTML newsletters for your nonprofit email marketing, all you have to do is to sign up with an email service provider (I have mentioned which specific ones below). You will then use their platform to send out your newsletters.

 Top 12 Reasons Why You Should Start Sending Out HTML Newsletters

1)   Free to use and paid options are  cheap

They are free to create and even the paid options are cheap. Most people who create PDF newsletters do so because they don’t want to spend any money to hire a professional.

You will be happy to know that you can still get to use HTML newsletters  free of charge.

6 email service providers you can use free of charge are

i.            Mailchimp– They have a forever free plan if you are sending out emails to less than 2, 000 people every month.

ii.            MadMimi– They also have a free plan if you are sending out newsletters to less than 2, 000 people a month.

iii.            Aboardly-you can use it for free if you are sending out your newsletters to less than 200 contacts

iv.            Elastic Email– You can add up to 10, 000 contacts and send up to 25, 000 emails free of charge

v.            Feedgee– Free to use for up to 3, 000 subscribers and you can send up to 15, 000 emails per month.

vi.            Vertical Response – It is free to use to send newsletters for up to 300 contacts and you can send up to 4, 000 newsletters per month.

Click here to get a more comprehensive view of over 100 email service providers whose services you can use.



2) They are mobile responsive

This means that they can  be viewed on mobile devices and tablets. They will maintain their formatting when opened across multiple devices, whether on desktop or phone.

3) Professional newsletters

Your emails will look professional even if you are not a graphic designer. Take advantage of the free newsletter templates that most email service providers have. You can also design your own templates using their drag and drop email editors. You can customize the templates as you want. Including using whatever colors, images, headers and text that you want.

4) Save time

You will save yourself lots of time. Once you create a template, you can just copy your text and any images that you want into the template next time you want to send out a newsletter to your subscribers. This will save you the many hours that you would have spent trying to design a new PDF newsletter from scratch.

5) Send your newsletters straight to the inbox

You can check your spam score before sending out your emails. This will minimize chances of your emails ending up in the spam folder.

6)  Track open rates of your emails

You can track and analyze how many people open and read your emails. This will help you know whether your subscribers are actually reading the information that you are sharing with them. You can test  various newsletter subject lines, layouts and text and see how your readers respond. This will help you refine your newsletter further and maximize your reach to your subscribers.

7) Increase your conversion rate

HTML newsletters have a higher conversion rate since you can include links in your emails. Your readers can  click the links and follow them.

8) Get your newsletters to be shared easily

Most email service providers make it easy for readers to share the emails that you send them. They  do this using the social media share buttons included in the newsletter template or the ‘forward email to a friend’ feature that most email service providers have. This will increase your reach.

9)       Maintain your contacts base

It will be easy for you to upload and maintain your contacts base. Most service providers make it easy for you to upload content from MS Excel. Once you upload the contacts, you can send messages to everyone on your list. You have the option of further segmenting your contacts list.

You can download your contacts list too into Ms Excel. It is also easy to switch from one email service provider to another one. You can import or export lists to another service provider.

10)          Your emails will load faster

HTML emails are smaller in size compared to PDF newsletters. This means that they load faster when opened; hence they are likely to be read.

11)        Subscribe and unsubscribe made easy

Your readers have the option of leaving your mailing list whenever they want to. If they decide to join your mailing list again, they can sign up to receive your newsletters on your website. This will prevent you from holding people who do not want to be on your list hostage.

12)        Personalize your emails

It’s quite easy to personalize HTML emails. Customization of emails increases customer engagement rates by up to 74%. . This can be quite challenging to do if you are sending out PDF newsletters.

How to Set Up a HTML Newsletter for Your Nonprofit Email Marketing

nonprofit email marketing

Setting up your HTML newsletter should take you less than 30 minutes.

1.     Identify a service provider. There are over 100 email service providers of them. Pick one that you think is the most suitable for you.

2.   Sign up on the site

3.   Create a newsletter template

4.   Upload your contact list

5.    Create your first newsletter by writing the text then uploading images

6.   Send yourself a test email to check that everything has been well formatted.

7.    Email your entire list

8.   Check your analytics. You do not have to do this immediately. You can keep checking over the weeks or months on how your subscribers are responding to your emails.

9.   Fine tune your emails

If you would like help to set up your account, check the help section on the website of  the email service provider. Alternatively, you can find DIY videos on YouTube. The videos will give you a quick orientation on how to get started.


Creating PDF newsletters is like having a gold shield. It might seem appealing but it is not suitable for the task. A gold shield is beautiful but it does not offer the protection that a soldier might need when they are on the war front since it is soft and heavy. Stop making it difficult for your readers to access your content and switch to using HTML newsletters today.

Have you made the switch to HTML newsletters or are you still sending out PDF newsletters? Let me know in the comments section below.


P.S. if you would like help setting up your HTML newsletter, you can email me at

Are you an NGO or a Non Profit organization? Would you like to get more funding for your projects?

Julie can help you do this by writing better emails/newsletters to send to your donors. Her main aim is to help you attract and retain donors, so that they can give more money towards your organization.

She can also manage your website and get more people to visit it by writing engaging blog posts, white papers, reports, brochures, case studies and whatever else you need. She does all this with the aim of attracting more people to your website, so that they can see and understand what you do and get encouraged to give financial support towards your organization.

If you need someone to write, format or set up your fundraising newsletters or write fundraising copy for you, you can reach Julie at

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