Spreading the Word Online for Palliative Care in Kenya

The Kenya Hospice and Palliative Care Association is a grantee of the Open Society Public Health Program and Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa.  Julia Strong, a Volunteer Resource Mobilizer with KEHPCA, shares some recent lessons learned about online communication.

Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) is working to increase awareness of palliative care in Kenya, nationally and internationally. Effective communication is vital to KEHPCA in ensuring the widest possible section of the community is aware of the palliative care services available in Kenya, and to foster support for our work. It is important that we tell compelling stories about programmatic work and advocacy activities to keep palliative care at the forefront of the agenda.

This year, the KEHPCA team spent time reviewing the organization’s previous newsletter which had been sent annually as a pdf attachment. Being sent just once a year, it was a dense document with a significant amount of copy. We decided to update the annual newsletter into a new format that allows all Kenyan hospices to share news and stories from the past year, creating an invaluable annual review of palliative care in Kenya. In addition, we realized that we would need a new, more frequent e-newsletter focusing on KEHPCA programs, policy developments, and fundraising initiatives.

As a small NGO, KEHPCA was keen to source the most user-friendly and economical e-newsletter software, and one that was preferably free to use. We explored a number of online services, including Campaign Monitor (the monthly fee was too high for us), and the Wordpress plugin for newsletters (not enough functionality - you can’t control when your email is delivered and you can’t segment the emails). We settled on the open source program MailChimp. MailChimp provides a fantastic online facility to design and format branded e-newsletters, which are free to send to up to 2,000 subscribers. We were able to format and brand the new e-newsletter using the mailchimp templates in just a few hours.

The content of the e-newsletter began to evolve and we now work as a team to regularly post new blog stories, resulting in an e-newsletter packed full of news sent once every two months. Stories cover a range of activities from our own program updates to international events and policy developments that we think will be of interest to our readers. KEHPCA’s Director Dr. Zippy Ali writes a personal introduction to each e-newsletter, giving it a friendly tone and highlighting key upcoming activities.

Along with design and content planning, developing mailing lists is a key component of effective newsletters. Subscriber lists are very easy to manage on MailChimp, and you can start off by simply uploading an excel list of names and email addresses which takes just a few minutes. Once you have started to send newsletters to your mailing lists there is a lot of functionality you can access for free – including being able to view exactly who has (and hasn’t) read your newsletter and the overall percentage view rate (our first few newsletters have been at around 50 percent). We also set up a widget on the KEHPCA website to make it easy for people to subscribe to the e-newsletter, and we link to each newsletter on Facebook and Twitter.

MailChimp does introduce costs once your mailing lists exceed 2,000 subscribers. These are not cheap, at around $50 plus per month, depending on how big your list is, although MailChimp offers a 15 percent discount on these prices to nonprofit organizations. We have yet to decide how KEHPCA will deal with this once our mailing list has grown to this size, and it may be at that time that KEHPCA considers other e-newsletter service providers, or even installing our own e-newsletter system.

We have already notched up 40 new subscribers from the KEHPCA website widget, and quickly reached 600 new subscribers with our new format. We hope that the e-newsletter will continue to grow and develop over time, and that it will prove to be a crucial tool in increasing awareness of the importance of quality palliative care for all.

1 Comment

Bravo KEHPCA for that innovative work of spreading your messages on palliative care.

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