Recently, I’ve been holding on to a few newsletters from organizations my husband and I give to. With one shining exception, they’re disappointing.
What’s frustrating is they could so easily be great. The organizations do good work. I’m sure they have good stories to tell.
And yet, they spend the time and money on glossy corporate brochures instead.
Folks: bragging is not the way to endear your supporters to you.
I’m going to show you some examples (names removed) today, in the hope that it will help you escape a similar fate.
But first, I want to underline for you just how important a good newsletter is. They’re three-way wins:
- A way to show (and tell) your donors about their impact
- A way to thank donors for their generosity
- A way to show them that their help is still needed.
Done well, newsletters are a must-have anchor for your donor communications.
However, there’s something to be learned from those that miss the mark. So on we go.
This is a newsletter directed at legacy giving prospects. So a very particular audience. But also an audience that has already demonstrated loyalty and interest. Really important people, in other words.
Tom Ahern stresses the key aspects of the newsletter you want to focus on: headlines, images and the captions for those images. That’s what most people – who skim, as we all do – will look at.
But this lead headline is dying of thirst. And where’s the donor? Such an opportunity lost!
Creating human language to talk about gifts in donor’s wills can be hard. It’s easy to fall back on our professional descriptions. But if you want to bore the reader, say “charitable gift annuity”.
Work harder. What does that mean to a donor? (Think of a donor who doesn’t work in financial services.) Keep working at the language until it’s simple and clear.
And then… put your donor in the headline!
Empathy is fabulous. That’s an important emotional trigger. But why negate its value with financial or legal terms?
How about, maybe: The lasting gift you make today – a bridge of empathy to the future.
If you open the newsletter, you find a good headline. “The legacy you live”. This invites you to read on. First, because it’s about your favorite topic – you. And second because it piques curiosity. What does it mean?
I like the first paragraphs, too. “Paying it forward is a lovely and popular idea but paying as you go is a living statement that is every bit as important.”
There’s a challenge in there. Will the reader accept it?
Everything about this newsletter makes me sad.
It celebrates as heroes the people working with the organization. They assign donors a bit part. And that part is about money.
This organization’s work is heroic. And desperately needed. And interesting!
But if you’re not putting the donor in the spotlight, why bother sending the newsletter? If gifts are crucial, so are donors.
The opening headline refers to the organization saving lives. Even something as small as “Because of you” before that headline would help.
It’s all about knowing the audience. Don’t conflate a public relations piece with donor communications. Not a single headline in the newsletter has the word “you” in it. In fact, the donor appears only on the back page – with an ask.
You lose nothing by including your donors. By shifting the spotlight to them. This is a well-known, international organization. Writing to people who have already given. They don’t need to toot their horn.
You won’t brag your way into a donation. A donation is a personal act. A personal statement. It’s emotional.
It needs to say,
YOU, dear donor, are critical to this work. You might not be with us on the scene. But we carry you with us everywhere we go. It’s your caring and generosity that fuel our work. Thank you.
This is another example of public relations before donor relations. It’s a press release with pictures.
The first page headline has nothing to say about donors. It’s about a program. Does it mention impact? Yes. But it neglects to credit the donor for making that outcome possible.
They miss another opportunity by neglecting to caption the photos. Do they need captions for you to know what’s going on? Maybe not. But since that space is so important to skimmers, it’s a great place to squeeze in more appreciation.
The inside spread celebrates a grant and the organization’s many years serving the community. Other than the grantor, no donors…
The problem isn’t just one of making donors feel good – though that’s important. It also sends a message that donors aren’t needed. That their gifts didn’t accomplish anything notable.
It may seem logical to have your newsletter written by publicity or public relations staff.
But remember, this is a donor newsletter. This isn’t journalism so much as a love letter. And when you only talk about yourself that makes for a less-than-satisfying relationship.
Here’s what you want: donors eagerly look forward to their newsletter. They read it and feel convinced that their gift had meaning. They know they’re appreciated.
Informing donors is good. But if you’re not also moving them – if you’re not stirring emotions – then you’re missing a golden opportunity.
If you want donors to join you in your mission, to feel as connected to the work as you do, then you need to hand over the credit. Let them shine. Welcome them to the team.