With a community newsletter, you’re provided with a simple way to reach out and communicate with all of your residents at once, and to clue them in on all of the happenings or goings-on around your community. A community newsletter can be delivered in print or provided through email or another online outlet, and it only takes a few minutes to craft a newsletter worthy of the benefits they provide.
Step One: Determine roles
Developing a neighbourhood newsletter takes time. It’s important to share the work of creating a newsletter so that no one burns out and so that the newsletter lasts for more than a few issues. Form a newsletter committee made up of people from your neighbourhood group. Discuss who has an interest in being the editor, who will gather material for articles and write them, who has a computer to create the newsletter, and who can deliver it. Gathering material, writing articles and delivering the final newsletter are activities that can be done by at least two or three people. You may find that there is one person who loves to do this kind of work and wants to take it on alone. No matter how good that person might be at producing the newsletter, they will still need the support of other neighbours to get the newsletter delivered to the community.
Step Two: Know your purpose
Before deciding to publish the neighbourhood newsletter, it’s helpful for your group to look carefully at your
purpose. What is it that you’re hoping to accomplish? How will the newsletter benefit those who read it and those who create it?
Possible purposes: Keep readers up to date about group activities, upcoming meetings, etc; Educate readers about issues and ideas that concern your group; Build unity and a sense of pride among group members; Recognize volunteers, local businesses and others who contribute to your group’s success; Share important resources with neighbours; Spark new interest in and increase recognition of your organization; Provide meeting summaries; Motivate residents to join your group or association; Let people know what the city, local companies and nonprofit organizations are doing.
Step Three: Know your audience
To help your group plan the contents of your newsletter, it will be helpful to know something about the people who will be receiving it. It’s time for a little research. Ask neighbours questions like: What would you like to know about our neighbourhood association? What topics would you like to learn more about? What types of stories would be the most fun and interesting to read?
Step Four: Decide on a publishing schedule
Remember the old saying that “quality is better than quantity.” You may want to start with the goal of producing two to three newsletters per year. As your newsletter committee grows and your process becomes established, you can develop newsletters more often.
Step Five: Decide what material to include
Be sure to balance information about your neighbourhood group and activities with a fun, helpful articles that will make life easier for your readers. More people will read your newsletter if it is helpful to them and enjoyable to read. Keep in mind that while your group’s goals are important to you, neighbour readers who are not involved in the group may not share these goals and may need to get interested over time. Don’t try to pack too much material into an issue. Save topics for the next issue. You may even want to focus on one topic—for example, education, health or beautification—per issue and include several articles that deal with that topic. The next issue would then focus on a different topic.
Step Six: Writing and editing
Ask your writers to use a friendly, conversational tone. Think about how you would talk to a new neighbour. Use
language that is easier to understand and avoid long sentences. Use lists and bullets to make articles easier to read. Try to finish all of the writing and editing before putting the articles into the design “layout”—how the articles are placed on each page. Putting complete or nearly complete articles into the layout will reduce the amount of time spent rearranging items on each page.
Step Seven: Design
Newsletter design is easy if someone in your group has a computer with word processing or design software
such as Microsoft Word or Publisher. If no one in your group owns a computer, ask neighbours, schools, the Willard Public Library or local church for assistance. Your first decision in designing the newsletter involves its format and length. The easiest format for design and production is a standard 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper— the standard size for most software programs. If your layout is more than two pages, your local copier or printer can place the pages onto an 11″ x 17″ sheet. If you have desktop publishing software, you can set up the format however you would like. Remember, quality of content is more important than quantity. Readers are more likely to pick up and read a two-page newsletter than a six-page newsletter. Shorter newsletters are also less expensive to produce. For those of you with computer software knowledge, keep in mind these design tips when laying out your newsletter:
- Columns: use two to three columns per 8 1/2″ x 11″ page for easy reading.
- White space: Readers’ eyes need places to rest. Keep quite a bit of space on the edges of the page, not the centre.
- Type: Choose a simple typestyle or “font” (e.g., Times New Roman) in 10- or 11-point size. Use bold and italic type sparingly and avoid all caps entirely, as these styles are difficult to read.
- Type alignment or “justification”: Left justified type is the easiest to read.
- Graphics: Select graphics that are simple and clear and that match the content and personality of your newsletter. Use clip art or photographs to break up the text and give your newsletter a more polished appearance but don’t overwhelm the page with too many graphics.
- Boxes: Sidebars and other short articles may be set off inboxes. Limit boxes to one per page.
- Title: Choose a title that is short and contains your neighbourhood name or some way to show who should read the newsletter.
Step Eight: Copying/printing
Now you’re ready to create a final copy of the newsletter! If you’ve used a computer software program such as Microsoft Word or Publisher, be sure to print your final copy on a laser printer or inkjet printer before having copies made. Check with your local copier/ printing company about printing it for you from a diskette. The clearer and crisper the original, the clearer your printed copies will be.
Step Nine: Distribution
Hand delivering your newsletter has several benefits. Hand delivery means personal contact and that’s always the best way to get folks involved and interested. Involve kids and pay them a small amount for their work. Obviously, it also costs less than mailing the newsletters.
• The more routes and the more distributors the better.
• Keep the routes consistent. Have the same person deliver to the same area each time. Besides making it easier to organize, this helps the distributor get to know her or his route… and creates community.
• Be sure to educate distributors on where NOT to put newsletters. It’s illegal to put newsletters inside mailboxes!
• Also, be sure to deliver to everyone
Step Ten: Get feedback
Feedback from neighbours is the best way to make your newsletter more effective and more likely to be read.
How do you know if your newsletter is effective?
• Neighbors you’ve asked say so
• Neighborhood leaders get positive phone calls
• People tell leaders that the newsletters are getting read
It’s important to remember that the number of neighbours at a general meeting is not a reflection of the
number of neighbours reading your newsletter. For many neighbours, reading the newsletter is a way to participate in the neighbourhood. Be patient; some of these neighbours may see the good work being done and join later.
• Consider selling advertising to help cover the costs. Ask local restaurants, convenience stores, lawn care
businesses, etc. to include an ad or simply photocopy their business card.
• Decide how often you really need the newsletter to go out.
• Ask your printer or other newsletter editors how your newsletter can be created for less money.
Now you’re ready to spread the word. Use it wisely, educate, inform, call your community for action.
Lets bild together!