What Makes a Great Donor Newsletter?

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Most nonprofit organizations produce a newsletter, and many are one big snoozefest. They’re too long and filled with articles that brag about how wonderful the organization is.

Newsletters can and should be a great way to stay in touch with your donors and keep them updated on how they are helping you make a difference.

I recommend a short e-newsletter once or twice a month and one to four print newsletters a year.  If you’re getting stressed out about coming up with content for your newsletters, then a communications calendar is your new best friend. Stay Connected Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

It’s possible to create a great donor newsletter. Here’s how.

Give your donors what THEY want

You may opt not to do a print newsletter because it’s too expensive and takes too much time, but you’re making a mistake if many of your donors prefer print.

I think you’ll have more success if you can do both print and electronic newsletters. But ask your donors what they like, and listen to what they say. If a majority of them prefer one over the other, then doing both may not make sense.

You also want to share content that will interest your donors.  In my last post, I wrote about channeling your inner four-year-old and asking why. Why are you including an article about your CEO receiving an award?  Do your donors care about that?  Probably not. They care about how they are helping you make a difference.

Share stories

Each newsletter needs to begin with a compelling 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.

Create a story bank that includes at least three client success stories.

Write to the donors

Write your newsletter in the second person, emphasizing you much more than we.  Be personal and conversational.  Say You helped give the Saunders family a new home or Because of donors like you, we were able to find housing for X number of families.

Don’t use jargon or language your donors won’t understand.  Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend.

I’m not a fan of the letter from the executive director, because those tend to be organization-centered instead of donor-centered.  

Show gratitude

Never miss an opportunity to thank your donors.  Every one of your newsletters needs to show gratitude and emphasize how much you appreciate your donors.

Make it easy to read (and scan)

Most of your donors aren’t going to read your newsletter word for word, especially your e-newsletter.  Include enticing headlines, at least a 12-point font, and lots of white space so your donors can easily scan your newsletter.

Use the inverted pyramid and put the most important story first, keeping in mind your donors may not get to all the articles.

Also, make sure your donors can read your e-newsletter on a mobile device.

Keep it short

Your print newsletter should be no more than four pages.  Limit your monthly e-newsetter to four articles.  Some organizations send an e-newsletter twice a month.  Those should be even shorter – two or three articles.

You may find you have more success with shorter, more frequent e-mail updates.

Send it to the right audience

Fundraising guru Tom Ahern recommends sending your print newsletter only to donors.  This can help you keep it donor-centered, as well as cut down on mailing costs.

Send e-newsletters ONLY to people who have signed up for it. They may or may not be donors, but an e-newsletter can also be a good cultivation tool.

It’s possible to create a great newsletter, if you put in the time and effort.

Read on for more information about donor newsletters.

The Domain Formula for donor newsletters

Should you include a reply envelope in your fundraising newsletter?

10 Surprisingly Easy and Startlingly Effective Ways to Improve Your Nonprofit E-Newsletter

Photo by Sarah Reid

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