Nonprofit Newsletters 101: Why less is really more…

Best practices & simple strategies to increase revenue

By Lolly Colombo, Chief Client Officer

When it comes to your fundraising strategy, do you let the data guide you? At BDI, my team knows how much I love digging into our client partners’ tri-annual results for answers to these questions:

What worked? 

What didn’t do well? 

What strategies surprised us?

Where can we make changes for better results in the future?

Over the years, answering these questions has helped BDI identify best practices for nonprofit newsletters… However, we’ve had a few clients who were attached to how their newsletter looked. They believed their donors had come to expect a certain “type” of newsletter. What if switching it up caused revenue to dip? 

You’ve probably heard the famous quote, often attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We had to help these nonprofit partners embrace change to make their newsletters as effective and profitable as possible

The challenge

City Union Mission in Kansas City, MO, had been mailing a 4-color newsletter five times a year… and it seemed to be working. Donors were happy… stories of life transformation were being shared. But they were unaware that this strategy might be negatively impacting their results.

BDI was seeing outstanding results for other clients in our network who were following the (simplified!) newsletter best practices we’d identified.  

As a trusted advisor, we stepped in to help this organization save on printing costs while still generating the increased revenue.

The solution

After seeing what had worked for our other nonprofit client partners, BDI implemented the following nonprofit newsletter best practices for several organizations whose old formats were underperforming, like City Union Mission:

  • Limit the number of newsletters they mailed. We switched them from five newsletters annually to four (one per quarter).
  • Change their mailing months. Instead of sending newsletters in February, May, July, September and November, we changed their dates to March, June, September and November – allowing for better integration with their other communication touchpoints.
  • Reduce the number of pages and colors. This was important! Instead of mailing 6-page, 4-color newsletters, we followed our proven strategy of a 4-page, 2-color newsletter.
  • Completely rework their holiday newsletter. For years, City Union Mission had mailed a 16-page, 4-color magazine-style newsletter during the holidays… and feared their donors would miss it. We designed a beautiful 4-page, 2-color alternative.

The results

As projected, following these best practices for nonprofit newsletters resulted in more revenue than before for City Union Mission! During the first year of implementing this new format and cadence, the organization saw:

  • Increased net revenue of $148,848 over the previous year.
  • Production cost savings of $37,775 by switching to a format with fewer pages and colors, as well as by sending four instead of five issues per year.
  • Year-over-year net revenue increased by 48%!

All in all, implementing these best practices for nonprofit newsletters is leading to more generosity being released – and more lives being changed through this organization’s programs and services!

What about the “COVID bump”?

You may be wondering if these results were inflated by the increased levels of giving we witnessed during the pandemic years. 

I’m pleased to share that even four years since implementing these best practices for nonprofit newsletters, City Union Mission continues to see a considerable impact through…

  • Higher average gifts
  • 45% increase in annual net revenue
  • $20,000 saved annually in production costs

Although the format may be different, the messaging continues to wow and inspire donors with powerful stories and photos of lives being transformed through their support.

Less really IS more

It may come as a surprise that a shorter, more simplified nonprofit newsletter could actually improve results. After all, we’re conditioned to believe that “bigger is better.” 

In fundraising, bigger is better when it comes to your passion and heart to serve… your commitment to your community… and the abundant generosity that empowers your life-changing work. Remember: You can make an even greater impact with simplified messaging that clearly speaks to your donors and inspires them to help. Now who was it that said, “Less is more!” 

Dive deeper into these record-breaking results and our best recommendations for nonprofit newsletters with BDI’s FREE case study. Download now >> 

  • Lolly Colombo, Exec VP Client Services

    Lolly Colombo, Chief Client Officer

    With over 30 years of program and agency experience, Lolly Colombo has brought her passion, expertise and heart of service to some of the world’s most beloved charities and faith-based organizations. She has had the pleasure of serving with Food for the Hungry, The Christian Broadcasting Network, Operation Blessing International,TBN, In Touch Ministries, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, The Salvation Army, Gospel Rescue Missions and others.

More fuel for more impact.

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