Last Updated: November 15, 2022
Every neighborhood, HOA (homeowners association), and community organization seems to need a fresh stock of bright winter newsletter ideas every year. Although those of you who edit e-mail series and posts on social platforms no doubt are resourceful, creative, and smart, everyone can use a few new thought starters. Here are seven specific article or post topics, followed by nine worthwhile themes you can develop to fit your own situation.
1. Take advantage of the still heightened awareness about public health to highlight your specific health department and healthcare options in ways that have been under-reported.
2. Explain (again, perhaps) how code enforcement works in your community, and interview officials about the most prevalent violations in your community.
3. Investigate what's happening with evictions in your city or neighborhood. Are they occurring? Is there a backlog? Is this a change from pre-pandemic days? Are rental prices going up or down, or staying the same? Odds are pretty good that rents are skyrocketing, so pay attention to that, since homeowners tend to be unaware.
4. Are there new businesses in your community? If so, interview them about why they chose their location, what they think of your neighborhood, how neighbors are responding, and how they are finding the local labor market. Try to get beyond platitudes.
5. Interview a local expert or meteorologist about predicted impacts of continued climate change. Ask about flooding, extreme weather, and anticipated changes in plant and animal life. If climate conversation is unpopular in your locale, you can cover the same topics without attributing causation to climate change.
6. Explain any emergency cold weather systems in place in your community, such as shelters, snow removal, or an overstressed electrical system and ways to cope with prolonged power outages. Describe and maybe diagram your energy grid, heating oil supply chain, or natural gas collection and distribution system.
7. Mine the U.S. Census data to come up with one or more interesting facts about the change in your neighborhood in the past ten years. Do this while the data are still relatively fresh, not in another seven years! Explain or ask someone to editorialize about why changes are occurring. Also look at changes in assessed valuations of property in your neighborhood in the last ten years.
Now it's on to the promised themes for a newsletter or social media campaign, as opposed to just story ideas.
If your organization has discussed its priorities for the past or next year, make sure your newsletter and other communications reflect those priorities. If no such conversation has occurred, fix that.
In the meantime, with your newsletter deadline fast approaching, ask a couple of friends or board members for their thoughts on the implied priorities, and run with those in deciding on your content.
Zero in on what makes your place unique. Our list is necessarily general, but your community is not identical to any other, so be sure to look for widely unappreciated aspects of your own place's character.
1. This is prime time for reviews of the past year and previews of the coming year. Make yours a little classier by avoiding just a long list of stuff you did as an organization this past year. Talk about the difference it made in people's lives, the appearance of your neighborhood, the functioning of your subdivision, or the perceptions of the children, older adults, and local businesses. Taking some time to find and tell a human interest story is far more engaging than a laundry list of what happened every month of the year.
Boost your winter newsletter or social media campaign by offering numbers and data that tell your story. How many different people volunteered for your organization? How many members do you have? How much engagement did you have on your social media platforms? How many Zoom meetings did you have? How about attendance trends if you have resumed in-person meetings? What percentage decrease in crime did your neighborhood witness? How did your 2021 compare to 2020 in fundraising, number of Likes on a social media platform, visits to your website, or interaction with your office, clinic, or the public? Reporting the number of volunteer hours that people contribution to your neighborhood organization is always appropriate.
Once your make a habit of collecting both stories and data, sprinkling those into your winter newsletter and social media becomes quite easy.
Especially in brief social media posts, take a risk and talk about the positive side of some negative event you experienced together. Conversely, a message about not becoming complacent can be helpful if your year was extraordinarily successful.
Assume that your reader has some knowledge of what happened this year, but feel free to remind folks of the details of all but the most highly publicized events. Aim some of your communication toward building a positive reputation among people who don't live in your community, and take the opportunity to enhance the buzz around your community as a great place to live.
Hopefully you have done some analysis of who your various audiences are, and how you can best reach them. (If not, make this a topic of a board or committee meeting for next year.) The end of the year offers a prime opportunity to tout your good work if you or your community organization normally are too shy about seeming boastful.
If you want to talk about how exciting next year will be, offer new information or a sneak preview of what is about to occur. Yes, it is important to repeat, repeat again, and repeat information a third time, but on the other hand, for those who are already well aware of your message, explain something additional or request specific types of volunteers with each post or winter newsletter.
Find some new photos that have not been circulated before. If that is a struggle, make a little video by stringing your current stock of photos together in a new way.
2. If winter holidays are part of the tradition of many households where you live, your winter newsletter can suggest ways to celebrate in a new way. Perhaps you can suggest gifts for the community rather than simply your family and best friend or two. Generosity, fairness, welcoming the stranger, and creating equity among groups are always appropriate, so suggest a few ways that community members might share resources with disadvantaged individuals or groups, make common cause with a group that you usually are at odds with, and develop opportunities for greater interpersonal and inter-group understanding and empathy.
If you are out of ideas about the most celebrated winter holiday in your area, think about another holiday, such as Kwanzaa, which offers uplifting thoughts for everyone. Maybe your community would be interested in the winter solstice.
If your community is part of perpetuating verbal or visual representations of a faceless enemy, think carefully about how the holiday spirit might shine through if you decided to call a truce and find something to appreciate about the "other," the out group. Human beings seem to always strive to make their own group better than some other group, but you can be bigger than that.
You could create a series of tweets or other posts giving insight into the history, culture, and perspectives of some person or group that you disagree with. Don't be part of the polarization, but choose to be part of the solution.
3. In places where winter weather can be severe, weather-appropriate suggestions for home maintenance, landscape maintenance, and safety should be part of every winter's communications strategy. However, you can make this fresh. Tell a story about what happened last year when a couple figured out how to remedy the problem of ice dams building up at the edge of their roof. Explain how Tom overcame the weekly disappearance of the kids' mittens at his house. Show photos of how a neighbor trimmed his trees to avoid falling branches.
Suddenly instead of a dry recitation of things you should do and not do to prepare for and survive the winter, you have an interesting example of something that actually happened in your own neighborhood.
Yes, you may want to interview some experts to find answers to typical dilemmas, but don't let that keep you from adding the human interest dimension to that same story.
4. Winter will mark the middle of the school year in many locations. It is time to describe ways to volunteer in your local schools, tell the stories of especially talented teachers or lunchroom cooks, or highlight an interesting class project. Explain to those who do not have children in your school how schools are trying to overcome lost learning due to the pandemic.
Review some children's books of local significance, which might include historic, literary, or musical figures from your home town. Suggest activities for curious young minds. Point out groups and activities available to children in your community.
Interviewing children and teens about their perceptions of the community and its needs is often entertaining, and sometimes especially insightful. If you have a "hot button issue," ask the kids what they think about it. Their comments will be unfiltered. It's an oblique way to address an explosive public policy issue. The kid interview angle is appropriate for a community of any size and character, and often results in great winter newsletter articles.
5. If you live where there are deciduous trees that shed their leaves in winter, make a long list of suggested things that residents could observe when they go for a walk. Suddenly people become more aware of topography and rooftops when the softening effect of the foliage falls away. (You might recommend some observations from our list on the housing condition survey page.)
Maybe you should start an annual winter photography competition. You could receive some especially dramatic entries if you live where snow and ice often alter the landscape, but looking at our neighborhoods in a different season is often instructive, regardless of where you live.
6. Embrace the international Human Rights Day on December 10. This would be especially appropriate if your community has experienced recent increases in immigrant or refugee resettlement. (Actually this concept has been stretched to a Human Rights Month all during December.)
Or urge observance of World Kindness Day on November 13. This idea is catching on in many countries, although the pandemic has overshadowed this and many other good impulses in communities. Give some concrete examples of acts of kindness that would be especially welcome in and relevant to your own community, or even call out some kind interactions you have witnessed on your sidewalks and in your shops recently.
7. Take the hint from harvest celebrations around the world by highlighting and offering thanks to the many people, organizations, and institutions that have made your particular subdivision, village, town, or city a better place. Yes, celebrate and thank the obvious heroes, but make a deep scan of the individuals who have donated time and resources to the past or current success of your community.
Thank elected officials, government staff members, private utility or other service providers, home builders, employers, and restaurant and grocery store workers in a public way in your newsletter. Even thank legislators and corporations who may not know who you are, but whose efforts have made a positive impact on the place you call home.
8. Educating residents about causes and effects in community work is always appropriate, but if people stay indoors more during the winter where you live, take the opportunity to write some longer articles about why local plants or restaurants might be closing their doors, how the region-wide market for housing is impacting home values, how the agility or sluggishness of your community college in providing relevant job training is affecting your city's economic future, or why adding another two lanes of traffic to an important local roadway is only a short-lived solution to traffic congestion.
If you need ideas, browse this website to find topics relevant to your situation. As a hint, on our sitemap page, find the yellow box where we include links to downloadable lists of pages appropriate for different sizes of cities and various community development interests.
January and February also are fruitful times of year to plant the seeds that perhaps a new neighborhood plan or other initiative might be just what is needed to jump start progress in your neighborhood.
9. If winter is depressing for a lot of people in your community, due to the cold, less sunlight, or the prevalence of illness, call attention to one or many places or experiences in your community that might provide a few hours of temporary relief. If the outlook for your neighborhood, city, or even country is looking grim right now, take the opportunity to review the basics of asset-based community development in your newsletter and suggest an attitude shift from dwelling on our problems to appreciating and building on our assets.
Lastly, of course our pages about newsletter ideas for spring, summer, and autumn also might be a springboard to the right thought for you as you plan your e-mail newsletter, printed newsletter, or social media posts for this winter. The overview article on newsletters linked below also will be useful to many, especially if you are a new editor.
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