Do Newsletters Make Sense?

The answer is, it depends. Newsletters can be a great way to stay in touch with your donors and keep them updated on how they are helping you make a difference.  But many newsletters just put you to sleep. They are too long and often filled with articles that brag about great the organization is.
Honestly, if you can’t produce a newsletter that your donors will want to read, what’s the point?  That said, it is possible to produce a successful newsletter. 
Print or electronic? 
I think you’ll have more success if you can do both.  But ask your donors what they like. If a majority of them prefer one over the other, then doing both may not make sense. 
Both print and electronic newsletters have their advantages and disadvantages, but by using two different channels, you have a better chance of connecting with your donors. The Pros and Cons of Print Newsletters in Your Content Marketing Mix 
I recommend a short e-newsletter once or twice a month and one to four print newsletters a year.  If you are starting to panic about coming up with content for your newsletters, then a communications calendar is your new best friend. Creating a Communications Calendar 
Create a powerful print newsletter
Some organizations won’t produce a print newsletter because it’s too expensive and takes too much time.  However, this is an investment you should make.  
Let’s say you are small nonprofit that mails out one appeal at the end of the year. You might want to send out a print newsletter in the spring and include a donation envelope.
You may be balking at the idea of putting a donation envelope in your newsletter, but it can help you raise extra revenue.  Give it a try.  Just make sure you communicate regularly in ways in which you are not asking for money.
Fundraising expert Tom Ahern recommends sending print newsletters only to donors.  This can help you cut down on mailing costs. 
Limit your newsletter to four pages, include lots of photos, and make them donor-centered.
One advantage of a print newsletter is your donor is more likely to read it.
Create an engaging e-newsletter
Send e-newsletters ONLY to people who have signed up for it. They may or may not be donors, but it can be a great cultivation tool, too. You can also share links to your e-newsletter on social media and your website. 
Keep your e-newsletter short – no more than three or four articles (shorter if you send one twice a month).  Use an enticing subject line such as Find Out More About …. rather than March 2014 Newsletter. Also, make sure people can read your newsletters on their mobile devices.
Advice for all newsletters
All newsletters should be short and easy to read and scan. They should also have a consistent look.
Open your newsletter with a story.  Client stories are best, but you could also do profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors.  Focus on what drew them to help you make a difference.
Make it visual.  Use photos. You could also put a short video in an 
e-newsletter.
This is a no brainer, but make sure it’s interesting to your donors. I’m not a fan of the letter from the executive director. Stories and updates are best. You could also include a short survey or ask your readers to take action, such as contacting their legislator.
Write it in the second person and keep it focused on how your donors are helping you make a difference.  Give it the you test.  Circle the number of you’s as opposed to we’s.  There should be many more you’s
Don’t be formal.  Write in a conversational style and watch out for any jargon.  You’ll connect more with your donors if your newsletter is personal.
Newsletters do make sense, if you take the time to do them well.

Photo by xposurecreative.co.uk via flickr

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