In Nonprofit Newsletters Donors Abhor I wrote about the ways many of our publications are downright dull and deadly. They serve no useful purpose, for you or for your readers, and they’re simply a waste of everyone’s time and resources.
Don’t let this bad thing happen to your good organization!
It’s not that hard to turn abhorrent into adorable. It just takes commitment and a little bit of guidance. Newsletter creationis not rocket science. It’s just something most of us aren’t taught.
So… let the teaching continue.
One of the first concerns people share with me is having to justify putting time and effort into creating a newsletter at all, let alone one that may take a bit more energy than you’ve been devoting in the past.
There are two ways to justify putting in the effort to create a really relevant, useful and timely newsletter donors will love.
They’re very simple:
The newsletter will make your organization happy (generally because you’ll acquire new supporters and raise money), and
The newsletter will make your donors happy (generally resulting in repeat and upgraded gifts and greater volunteerism).
There is no better tool than a donor-centered newsletter to help you build relationships with all your donors, not just those for whom you have time for face-to-face contact.
Your newsletter doesn’t have to win a Pulitzer.
Donors don’t really care how erudite you are or how beautiful your design is. They just want to know you care about them and that by being affiliated with you they’re doing some good in the world.
If you reassure your readers of these things, they’ll stick with you through thick and thin. Because they’ll feel all warm and fuzzy about they’re connection with you. Ultimately, the retention of happy supporters will increase the lifetime value of these folks to your organization by leaps and bounds.
Your newsletter doesn’t have to be a huge, instant money-making machine.
Some newsletters do a pretty terrific job in that department, especially over time. Once you get the hang of writing donor-centered, timely content.
To begin, however, wrap your mind around the minimum requirement of just needing to cover your postage and printing. If you follow the rules you’ll find in this article about what content donors adore (and the previous article about what content donors abhor), you’ll be sure to bring in enough current gifts to break even – and likely raise even more than that (if not in the short-term, then certainly over time).
TIP: Always include a remit envelope. It serves as a “soft ask” and makes it convenient for folks who are moved by your content to give an additional gift.
Newsletter Content Donors Adore
Almost anything including the word “you” or “your” is going to feel meaningful.
Because it puts the donor in the story. It’s not just about how great your organization is. It’s about how awesome your donor is. And about how unstoppable you are together.
You made this possible!
Look what you accomplished!
Sirisha’s success is your success.
Your support helped serve 1000 meals last month.
Your advocacy helped changed the rules of the game.
They’re really not waiting by their mailbox to hear about your latest board member, new staff hire, building renovation or recent grant award. And certainly not about your need for more money because the need is still so great!
Here’s Amelia’s story, which you made possible.
Victory was ours last week! (Tell a success story).
A funny thing transpired when George walked into our offices last week… and you made it happen. Here’s the story…
You’ll never believe what happened last week. This story all began when…
Here are three stories that will break your heart, and restore your hope.
Donors want to be reminded they made a good decision by giving to you.
This means saying thank you. A lot. And sometimes recognizing donors and volunteers, individually and as groups.
Thank you Noah for donating the centerpiece baskets of fresh produce and canned goods from your bar mitzvah to the Food Bank! Here’s Noah’s story…
Kudos to Anne for running 10 miles every day for a month to help find a cure! Here’s Anne’s story…
Thanks to the Smiths for establishing a Named Endowment Fund in memory of their daughter Susie. Theirs is an inspiring story…
A big shout out to the Parkside Book Club who banded together to provide a scholarship! They took their love of stories to create their own…
Donors want to read short stories.
All the best consumer brands today talk in stories. If you’ve read this far, this should be abundantly clear. If you take nothing else from this article, take this: Tell stories! This is what your donors will tell you they want to see, hear and feel if you ask them (try it!). Telling your stories in newsletters is a useful way pump up your supporter base.
TIP: I like to reframe and rather than think about donor publications as “newsletters” I think about them as “short stories.”I’ve never met a nonprofit that didn’t have a ton of interesting, compelling, heart-wrenching stories to tell. It’s just that many don’t know where to look for them or how to tell them effectively. It’s time for you to learn. Make it a priority to tell and collect stories across your entire organization. Enroll your staff. Enroll your volunteers. Enroll your donors. Tell stories at all your meetings. Write them down. Put them in the form of “once upon a time… this happened… then that… then, just when all looked hopeless… your donor stepped in to make the happy ending.”
TIP: Always think about your mission and how these stories make your work a compelling necessity. Talk about the people, places and causes crying out for change; then talk about how your donors make this possible.
Donors want helpful information.
You no doubt have lots of useful stuff hanging around from which your readers can benefit. When I worked at a social services agency, one day I was sitting in a social worker’s office waiting for a meeting to begin and discovered a file drawer labeled “New Moms Workshops.” Inside I found numerous “How To” fliers meant for clients. A new mom myself at the time, I found many of them fascinating! And I thought, we should be sharing these with our newsletter list! Ultimately, we did. And there were many more useful tip lists where those came from. “How to Keep Seniors Safe at Home,” “How to Stop Bullying,” “How to Spot Signs of Dementia,” “Reading Recommendations for Middle-Schoolers,” and so forth.
TIP: Sit down with program staff to brainstorm your own useful content. Be sure to include at least one helpful item in every newsletter.
Want to learn more about what to put in and what to leave out of your newsletter?
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice. Clairification School has been called “the best bargain in fundraising!” Claire is also featured expert and Chief Fundraising Coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco California. If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire.