There’s a good chance the answer to this question is yes. Many nonprofit organizations use a newsletter as a way to engage their donors, but the opposite is happening. That’s because most donor newsletters can be used as a cure for insomnia. They’re too long and filled with articles that brag about how wonderful the organization is.
Don’t worry. You can create an engaging newsletter your donors will want to read. Here’s how.
Think about what your donors want
You may opt not to do a print newsletter because it’s 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. I recommend a short e-newsletter once or twice a month and one to four print newsletters a year. 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 include content that will interest your donors. Do you think they would rather read an article about your CEO receiving an award or one about Jacob acing his math test after his weekly tutoring sessions? The answer should be obvious.
Your donors want to hear how they’re helping you make a difference.
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 your mission.
Create a story bank that includes at least three client success stories to use every year.
Write to your donors
Write your newsletter in the second person, emphasizing you much more than we. Be personal and conversational. Say – You helped Jacob improve his math skills or Because of donors like you, X number of students are now reading at their grade level or above.
Ditch the jargon and other 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 CEO because those tend to be organization-centered instead of donor-centered.
Say thank you
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 and email subject lines, at least a 12-point font, and lots of white space so your donors can easily scan your newsletter.
Stick to black type on a white background as much as possible. Colors are pretty, but not if it’s hindering your donor’s ability to read your newsletter. Photos can be a great way to add color, as well as tell a story in an instant.
Use the inverted pyramid and put the most important story first, keeping in mind your donors may not get to all the articles.
Very important – make sure your donors can read your e-newsletter on a mobile device.
Short and sweet
Your print newsletter should be no more than four pages. Limit your monthly e-newsletter 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 email 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.
Let’s put an end to boring newsletters. Create one your donors will want to read.
Read on for more information about donor newsletters.
Photo by Dwight Sipler