Strengthen your newsletters by writing with these goals in mind!
From Sarah Wallin, Creative Director
Newsletters are the best, right? They offer your nonprofit the chance to go deeper with your donors, volunteers and other community supporters. They’re one of the most powerful and compelling tools in a nonprofit fundraiser’s toolbox.
But sadly, a lot of nonprofits completely miss the point of newsletters. And their organization suffers because of it.
Don’t let that be you!
Here are a few tips for making sure you have a clear goal for your newsletter. Or, more accurately, 3 goals that drive all the strategy and content inside of it.
Goal #1: Outcomes-Focused
Newsletters, like appeal letters, are a point of contact with the supporters of your organization. But unlike appeal letters, newsletters are a special touchpoint where you can really focus on outcomes.
What do I mean by outcomes? That is, showing how your nonprofit is fulfilling your mission statement… your promise to your supporters. If you ask donors to donate to provide groceries each week to dozens of families, then the outcome would show the fulfillment of that promise with stories and photos of people receiving that food.
A newsletter is your special opportunity to report back on the success that your donors made possible – how you fed dozens of families, or helped rescue 10 abandoned kittens, or whatever your mission may be.
Notice that I emphasized “the success that your donors made possible”… more on that in a minute.
When you show these powerful outcomes – through real-life photos and stories of the people you serve – it invites your supporters to new levels of inspiration and engagement.
Goal #2: Donor-Focused
One of the most common ways nonprofits fall down on newsletters is by writing content that is organizationally-focused instead of donor-focused.
Back to that phrase above, which should be the guiding principle of every newsletter you produce. “The success that your donors made possible.” Here’s a very simple way to determine if your newsletter is donor-focused:
- Organization-focused: Newsletter is focused on what “we” did (readers can view it as you bragging about your organization)
- We helped change Julie’s life.
- “Organization Name” gave Julie a second chance in life.
- Look at the incredible care we provided that changed Julie’s life.
- Donor-focused: Newsletter content is focused on what “you” did (your supporters should feel warm and fuzzy and involved after reading it)
- You helped change Julie’s life.
- Thank you for giving Julie a second chance in life.
- You provided the care that changed Julie’s life.
Big difference! The content in your newsletter builds relationships with your audience – making them the hero of the story and showing the outcome as a direct result of their support. By thanking them for it over and over, you reaffirm the connection between your donor and the success of your work.
In addition to avoiding “we” language, also avoid photos that point back to the organization more than the donor. One repeat offender seen in nonprofit newsletters is photos of giant checks being presented to the nonprofit – the majority of donors don’t care much about which local business or foundation gave a large sum of money. In fact, this photo could even deter a donor from giving if they feel like their support isn’t needed, or that their contribution is insignificant next to such a large gift. What they do care about is knowing how their $5, $30 or $100 made an impact.
Goal #3: Fundraising-Focused
And that brings us back to thinking about the goal of your newsletter. And I’ll keep this really simple: the goal is to report back on a donor’s impact… and encourage them to give again to continue their impact.
In other words, your newsletter should not just be relationship-building, but also be fundraising-focused.
Include an article that clearly and succinctly asks for your donors’ support. And don’t shy away from including reply devices and an envelope so that donors can easily make a gift. After hearing how much their past gifts have impacted those you serve, they’ll most likely be inspired to make another gift!
Strike a balance between articles that thank donors for their support AND articles that show the continuing needs. You don’t want every article to ask for money, but you do want to present a variety of ways people can contribute – whether by donating items, holding a fundraiser/asking others to donate for their birthday, becoming a monthly giver, making a legacy gift, serving as a volunteer. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – the options are endless!
And as far as long-term impact? Your newsletter can bind your supporters even more closely to your cause. As fundraiser Claire Axelrad notes: “Your newsletter doesn’t have to win a Pulitzer. Donors just want to know you care about them and that they’re doing some good in the world. Ultimately, the retention of happy supporters will increase the lifetime value of these folks to your organization by leaps and bounds.” ¹
There’s no better relational or fundraising tool than a newsletter that’s focused on the incredible outcomes of a donor’s support made possible and inviting them to give again to create an even bigger impact!
When you produce newsletters with these goals in mind, you show your donors how their past gifts made a difference and offer new ways to contribute. As a result, you build stronger relationships with them that leave you both feeling engaged and excited for years to come.
You need to read this! Click here to read “Successful Succession” from BDI’s CEO and President, Michael J. Tomlinson.