You don’t have a donor newsletter? Why not?
Starting a new project can be scary, I know. It’s one more thing on the to-do list. But effective donor communications, including a donor newsletter, mean better and longer donor relationships. And that means more funding.
So here are some excuses – and of course, the arguments against them.
1. We’re too small
Small organizations can benefit from increased meaningful communication with their donors. If you’ve been looking only toward foundation funding and major gifts, you are counting on a small group of supporters. That’s risky.
If you want to grow, pay attention to the donors who don’t always get much attention. Your newsletter is also a terrific way to ask donors to give again – perhaps become a monthly donor or remember your organization in their will.
2. It’s too expensive
I understand the fear of adding a whole new expense item to your budget. I’ve had this discussion myself.
But the truth is that a good newsletter doesn’t have to be expensive. And if done well, it doesn’t need to be only an expense. Donors often give when they receive a newsletter. The first time I tried one, it brought in more than our last appeal had. Obviously, our donors were eager for information and updates.
But your real argument is that this is an important step for donor retention. Bringing in new donors only to watch them go soon after is the real expense. Keep them close by communicating!
3. Who will do this? We don’t have time!
I understand, I really do. It’s hard to make time for a new project. So you have a choice: think about the potential upside of a good newsletter against something else you’ve been doing. (Is keeping up that social media account making any measurable difference to your results?)
Or you can hire someone. Fundraising copywriters like me will often take on projects like this for you. The bonus is that we understand what works. So the money you spend will likely come back to you in gifts.
4. But there’s a pandemic happening! We don’t have anything new or interesting to report.
Your day-to-day life has probably been pretty hectic throughout this Covid pandemic. So what is it that you’re doing? To you, it seems like work. But your donors might find it interesting. Here are a few ideas if you’re stuck.
- Introduce them to a staff person. Or to another donor. (Asking a donor if you profile them could be a double win!)
- How have you been carrying on your mission right now? They’ll want to know!
- What are the greatest needs your organization – or the people you serve – have right now? They’ll want to know that, too.
- Or take them back to something that happened years ago and still affects your organization. An old photo, a curious anecdote… any of that can be interesting to your donors.
Your donors are not expecting perfect – especially if yours is a smaller organization.
But they do want to know their gifts make something better. Want to keep them around? Let them know.
Where should you start?
Don’t be overwhelmed. You can even start with a simple “newsyletter” (thanks to Simone Joyaux for the name) just a two sides of the same page.
Sit down and think for a bit.
- What has changed because of your donors in the last few months?
- What is new at the organization? (Staff, programs?)
- Are there any organization anniversaries that you can include?
- Is there anything coming up that you want donors to know about?
You might already have put some of this information together. Think back to your last board meeting, for instance. Or even a staff meeting report.
Now think about what images you have. Images do say more than words. A few great pictures can make your newsletter sing!
If you have more to share, you can create a newsletter on a tabloid size piece of paper (11 x 17 inches here in the US). Fold it in half. Now you have 4 sides of the paper. Worried about design? Borrow some ideas from the newsletters you get in the mail.
If you have a very small list, you may be able to print and mail the newsletters – or newsy letters – right from the office. If your list is larger, look for a trusted mail house/printer. They can ensure you get the best rates. And the time you don’t spend folding and stuffing envelopes is time you can spend on other priorities.
One note: I don’t suggest using only email to communicate with your donors. A mailed newsletter will do a better job. But if you do send a mail newsletter, you can also break the stories up into a series of emails to those donors you don’t have mail addresses for.
P.S. Don’t forget to make it easy for donors to respond
Remember to take as much care with the newsletter response form as you do with an appeal response form. And include a return envelope. Because you may be surprised at how many donors do want to respond.
Make room this year for a donor newsletter – it’s a great tool to keep your donors around and interested in your work.