This a guest blog post by Jeff Brooks
A “donor newsletter” is a newsletter for and about donors. Its message: Your giving to our organization is making the world a better place. You are accomplishing what you meant to accomplish when you gave!
A donor newsletter is not an education piece – rather, it’s about what our donors have accomplished through us. And it’s not meant to be a chronicle of our successes. It tells the stories of success… and gives the donor the credit for helping make it possible.
So, does your nonprofit need to produce a donor newsletter?
When you produce a donor newsletter and send it to your donors, here’s what you can expect:
A donor newsletter will increase short‐term revenue
Donor newsletters raise funds. They often rival the performance of direct-mail appeals.
A donor newsletter will also increase long‐term revenue
Here’s the beautiful part about donor newsletters: They improve donor retention. They help “close the loop” for donors, showing them that their giving accomplishes what they hoped it would.
Organizations that produce solid donor newsletters see overall donor retention rates that are 5% to 20% higher than those that don’t.
A donor newsletter will increase donor engagement
Newsletters are also a great vehicle for recruiting volunteers, advocates, event participants, and planned giving leads. They are far more cost-effective than producing additional mailings.
What not to do
A donor newsletter is not a “magazine” full of glossy articles about your organization and cause. Magazines typically raise a fraction of what donor newsletters raise, and have no impact on donor retention.
A donor newsletter is a more “home-grown” piece; a donor’s insider look at what their giving accomplishes.
Where to Start with Your Newsletter
Now that you understand the benefits of producing a donor newsletter for your nonprofit, let’s take a look at the elements to consider to get your newsletter created and sent to your donors.
What’s the newsletter called?
Like every publication, your newsletter needs a name. Make it memorable and relevant, but don’t knock yourself out trying to come up with something clever. A straightforward name like [Name of Organization] News can do the job better than something people have to read twice to understand!
You can send a newsletter anywhere from one to 12 times a year. Most organizations send two to four. If you don’t have a newsletter now, start slow, with four a year at most. If they do well, consider adding more next year.
Your newsletter should include:
• An envelope that it mails in, typically a #10 window or closed face envelope.
• Four pages, 8.5 x 11″ (that’s one 17 x 11″ sheet folded in half) printed in two or four color.
• A reply coupon.
• A return envelope.
Have someone skilled at design build a basic template so the newsletter has a recognizable look from issue to issue. Be plain and conservative; cute, ultramodern design will most likely do poorly. Focus on readability. Don’t use reverse type, type over the photos, or use fonts in anything other than black.
There should be a clearly designated writer/editor. If you make it a group project, you will struggle to stay on schedule! Make sure it’s one person’s job to keep the newsletter on track.
When writing the content for the newsletter, be sure to use a storytelling style. Tell the story of what your organization has been able to accomplish thanks to your donors. Keep the tone informal and personal. At the same time, make the newsletter easy to read and understand (keep it at a 7th grade reading level.)
Source of images
Make sure you have access to decent-‐quality photos of people touched by your work. A picture is worth a thousand words: Make sure you get the right thousand words! It might be worth it to hire a professional photographer.
Asking in your newsletter
There should be a fundraising ask. But it should be less urgent than standard appeals. The context: You can see that your previous giving is making a difference. Would you like to give another gift today?
Remember, donor newsletters often performance as well direct-mail appeals. It’s also a great way to stay connected with your donors and at the top of their minds. Can you see a donor newsletter working for your nonprofit?