The tagline said “thanking those who make a difference”, but I don’t think that’s me.
Because out of maybe 15 articles in the newsletter, 10 refer to large individual or foundation gifts.
Like, millions large.
And while the stated purpose of this newsletter is thanks, the headlines read like those on press releases. I’m never addressed directly (no “you” here at all).
And while there’s a gift envelope stapled into the fold, there’s no real ask.
There are many mentions of large institutional and private donors. There are pictures of the beautiful people at a fancy fundraising event. And those people and institutions might absolutely love the press and kudos.
But why bother sending this to me?
If you’re going to do a donor newsletter and make most of your donors a second thought then I have some advice for you:
Save your printing and postage costs. Spend the time and money on a lovely, intimate, hand-notated impact report for your largest donors. Call them each personally. Send out press releases so the institutional donors have something to show for their involvement.
Because if this sounds like your donor newsletter, you’re missing the whole point. You’re not matching the publication to the audience.
Most of your donors don’t need an 8 page newsletter. They don’t need something expensively printed. But they do need to know they matter.
Not in aggregate. Not as one of many. As individuals.
Did my gift matter?
If you want donors to feel like their gifts have meaning, you have to say so.
One average-sized gift is not going to cure cancer or eliminate hunger by itself. But the donor who makes that average gift needs to feel more than average.
She needs to feel her average gift is part of something much better than average. And that without her, big things might not happen. Or at least, might not happen as quickly.
Don’t make the mistake of writing about what you want to write about. Write about what your donors want to read about.
That starts with “did my gift matter?”
If eight-figure gifts are all that’s mentioned, the donor will perceive your answer is “no, not really.”
Then she may find an organization that does value her gift.
So absolutely include an inspirational story of a million dollar donation. Especially if it was a bequest made by a “regular” person.
But include stories for everyone, too. Human-sized stories for every donor.
Your fundraising will be more successful if you focus less on dollar signs and more on donor impact.
If your headlines are all about the money, you’re excluding people.
All donors matter
If you don’t truly believe that, you may be in the wrong line of work.
Newsletters should go to all your donors. They aren’t intended to serve as one on one communications with your largest donors. So why pitch your newsletter to only those donors with lots of zeros in their gift?
Donors tend to be very tolerant people. Honest to goodness, they put up with a lot of bad treatment from nonprofit organizations.
But it wouldn’t be smart to depend on that. It’s definitely a bad retention strategy.
So use your newsletter to reach every donor, regardless of their gift size. Make every single donor feel wonderful about giving. Confirm that they’ve made a fantastic choice when they gave.
Share all your good news, and credit them. Share some less than good news, too – and show them how they could help.
But please, stop ignoring most of your donors.
Because if you’re chasing those million-dollar donors with a newsletter, you’re doing it wrong. And if you think the rest of your donors don’t notice they’re being ignored, you’re missing there, too.
Newsletters are a fantastic way to communicate with your donors. Use them well.