Did something newsworthy happen in your community this month? Well don’t keep it a secret! Whether it’s financial data, an update to a rule or an announcement about an upcoming event, newsletters can be a great way to keep HOA members informed and engaged.
Do people really read newsletters anymore?
Why would an HOA use a newsletter instead of email or a bulletin board? After all, newsletters have historically been text-heavy emails that don’t always generate excitement from recipients. But, a well-written, well-formatted newsletter is still one of the best ways to spread news. That’s because newsletters are:
- Capable of summarizing dense or lengthy information
- Cheap or free to create
There’s a lot that a board, committee or manager can do with an HOA newsletter. You can feature owners for spotlight pieces, invite guest writers to submit stories about their experiences in the community, offer cost-saving tips, or share photos from a recent event.
Newsletters can be shared physically or digitally, making them suitable for all homeowners. If you focus on delivering value to owners, you will get a loyal following, even if only a quarter of recipients read the newsletter.
What to include?
Above all else, a newsletter needs to be interesting to your readers. A summary of last month’s meeting minutes, or a lengthy article about the importance of following rules and regulations isn’t going to attract readers. There is a time and place for that information, but it’s not here. If you’re questioning whether something is worth including, ask yourself if you would read about what you’re writing if you were a resident.
As mentioned earlier, you can include almost anything in a newsletter, but these items are usually the most valuable to readers.
Date, issue and volume number
Make sure to date and number each issue. This helps the person or group responsible for publishing the newsletter to stay organized, and it lets recipients know that they are reading the most current issue.
Highlight the main items that will be covered in the newsletter. This is your opportunity to hook readers and entice them to keep reading.
This is a great way to share key email addresses or phone numbers with members. For example, include the name and contact information of the association manager in each newsletter so that new and old members have multiple opportunities to see and save it.
Save yourself some time by including answers to FAQs in your newsletter. By doing this, residents will have key information like where to find architectural change request forms or community rules/policies, and they won’t need to come to you or other staff members for answers.
People prefer looking at photos to reading words. Where appropriate, include images, charts, graphs, and infographics to tell stories with visual aids.
News about your members
Owners are much more likely to pay attention to newsletters when they know they will be featured. You can share lighter news about members who just moved in, retired from their career, or some other big milestone.
News from your members
If owners have contributed to the newsletter, they’ll be excited to read it. Encourage regular submissions from members to get fresh content and improve readership.
Writing and distributing newsletters with Mailchimp
There is more than one way to create an HOA newsletter. You could use a word processing platform like Microsoft Word to type it out, make copies, and distribute the newsletters by hand. You could leave a pile in a common area like the clubhouse (though this strategy usually has a low success rate). You could download a template, customize it, and email it to recipients. Or, you could use a free platform designed for newsletters and email marketing.
Mailchimp is a marketing automation platform and email marketing service. That simply means that users can upload and edit lists of email addresses, create content to send to recipients, and schedule it to go out at the perfect time.
Millions of people use and enjoy Mailchimp because it is very easy to master, it is aesthetically pleasing, and its most basic plan is free to users.
Benefits of Mailchimp
Ability to import existing contacts
If you already have a resident email list in excel or a similar program, you can import it directly into Mailchimp and get to sending your first newsletter right away. You can also create lists manually, but that could take a lot of time if you are adding more than 100 contacts.
Tailor content based on your recipients
Mailchimp has a tagging feature that allows you to label and filter your audience based on location, engagement, activity, and more. By tagging residents, you can send more personalized, relevant emails to specific segments.
Contacts can also be organized into groups such as board members, staff, owners and renters.
Ability to brand and customize emails
There is a modest collection of templates for you to choose from, and building content blocks is refreshingly simple. You can also add your association’s brand to the newsletter, customize colors, create clickable buttons, incorporate videos and images, and more.
Mailchimp understands how important it is to create content that is mobile friendly. You won’t have to go out of your way to produce content that looks good on a phone screen.
You can upgrade if you really like Mailchimp
Mailchimp has a free forever plan, which is very appealing to any organization or business that is working with a limited budget. This plan includes:
- Marketing CRM
- Creative assistant
- Website builder
- Mailchimp domain
- Forms & landing pages
- Monthly email send limit of 2,500 sends
- Up to 500 contacts
The next plan is priced at $11 a month, but that’s only if you have 500 or fewer contacts. The monthly cost jumps to $23 if you have 1,500 contacts, and $34 if you have up to 2,500 contacts. However, the more advanced plans also offer more functionalities, performance insights, and customer support. While Mailchimp is easy to use, there’s no customer service available to users who have a free plan. You can always check out YouTube though for basic “how-to” videos.
You can send out surveys
This is kind of a bonus feature, but you can send out surveys to recipients and ask them what they like or dislike about the newsletter. The feature could also be used to gather feedback about other community issues, too. You have the option of using Mailchimp’s hosted survey form to create surveys, or you can use a third-party integration like SurveyMonkey.
Access to reports
Mailchimp’s reporting features are very thorough. They contain client, geographic, and social media tracking. Most importantly, you can see how many people opened your newsletter.
Digital newsletters are a smart choice
Online newsletters are generally preferred because they are easier to publish. They can save an association money if newsletters were previously being printed out. Furthermore, whoever is in charge of distributing the newsletter can provide readers with more information by adding links instead of trying to fit too much information into 2 or 3 pages.
Design is important when creating an online newsletter, and using a platform like Mailchimp can help you produce something that is consistent, visually pleasing, and in line with your brand.
Finally, it’s much easier to make last-minute changes when newsletters don’t need to be printed out and mailed to residents.
That’s not to say that you should stop printing newsletters altogether. Some people will always prefer physical copies, so you can still print a smaller number of hard copies for those individuals. However, most residents will appreciate a digital copy more than a physical one.
For more tips on how to write a newsletter that your residents will actually want to read, check out this resource.