A newsletter can be a great way to engage with your donors. Unfortunately, that doesn’t often happen because most donor newsletters can put you right to sleep. They’re too long and filled with boring articles that brag about how wonderful the organization is.
The good news is you can create an engaging newsletter your donors will want to read. Here’s what you need to do.
Think about what your donors want
You need to include content that will interest your donors. You also need to reference the current situations. Do you think your donors would rather read an article about your CEO receiving an award or one about Marla, a single mother who is having trouble making ends meet, but is grateful she can get food for her family at the Eastside Community food bank?
The answer should be obvious. Your donors want to hear about how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community.
If you’re a larger organization, you could create different newsletters for different programs or one specifically for monthly donors.
Don’t shy away from a print newsletter
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.
Many organizations put a donation envelope in their print newsletter. This is a proven way to raise additional money and you may be able to recoup your expenses.
You can also save money by creating a shorter print newsletter (maybe two pages instead of four) or only mailing once or twice a year. You can print them in-house, as long as it looks professional.
Be sure you have a clean mailing list. If you can get rid of duplicate and undeliverable addresses, that’s another way to save a little money.
Donors are more likely to read a print newsletter. But ask them what they like, and listen to what they say. If a majority of them prefer print, then you need to find a way to accommodate them.
Share your stories
Each newsletter needs to begin with a compelling story. If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell.
Client stories are best, but you could also do profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Focus on what drew them to your mission (more on that below).
Create a story bank that includes at least four client stories to use every year.
Don’t stray from your mission
A common article I see in many nonprofit newsletters is one about a foundation or major donor giving a large gift. This may be accompanied by a picture of someone holding a giant check. Of course, you should recognize these donors (and all donors), but why is this gift important? How will it help your clients/community?
For example – This generous $50,000 grant from the Eastside Community Foundation will help us serve more students in our tutoring program. Many students have fallen behind since the pandemic started.
Something else I see a lot is a profile of a new board member. Instead of focusing so much on their professional background, let your donors know what drew them to your organization. We welcome Lisa Clark, Vice President of First National Bank, to our board. Lisa has a brother with autism and is very passionate about finding ways for people with autism to live independent lives.
Write to your donors
Write your newsletter in the second person, emphasizing you much more than we. Be personal and conversational. Say – You helped Marla feed her family or Because of donors like you, X number of families have been able to get healthy food every week.
Leave out 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.
Pour on the gratitude
Never miss an opportunity to thank your donors. Many donors have stepped up over the last two years and they deserve to be thanked as often as possible. 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 (if you don’t, your donors may not read it at all), 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 some color, as well as tell a story in an instant.
Use the inverted pyramid and put the most important story first (client story or profile), keeping in mind your donors may not get to all the articles.
Keep it short
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 – maybe just two articles. People have a lot going on and don’t want to be bombarded with too much information.
Do the best you can
For some of you, putting together a newsletter may be too much to take on right now. You don’t have to do an actual newsletter, but you do need to keep your donors updated.
Do what you can, but be sure to update your donors at least once a month. You may find you have more success with shorter, more frequent email updates and postcards with an infographic a few times a year.
Create an engaging newsletter that won’t bore your donors.
Keep reading for more information on how to create a great donor newsletter.