The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Four Ways to Make Your Nonprofit Newsletter a Powerful Fundraising Tool

Your nonprofit newsletter can be one of your best fundraising tools. That’s because a newsletter has a unique platform to show donors the impact of their giving — and cement the relationship. And it can do this while earning a fundraising return that rivals (or even beats) appeal letters. The key is to make sure your newsletter builds donor loyalty. Loyal donors will give more, stay with you longer, and be your best advocates.

A loyalty-building newsletter requires clear, muscular writing and eye-catching design. But that isn’t enough. Apply these four principles to your newsletter — and watch your donors respond!

1. It’s about your donor.

The heart of a loyalty-building newsletter is showing the donor she makes a difference. That’s the central message of your newsletter. The “star” is your donor. Not you.

Your audience is your donor. Your donor wants to hear one thing from you: That her giving matters. This principle should guide all your decisions about newsletter content. When you consider putting something in your newsletter, ask yourself: “Does this demonstrate to the donor that her involvement matters?” If it doesn’t, throw it out.

Once you have the right material, there’s another step: Repeatedly, throughout every newsletter you publish, you should include variations of this phrase: “This is possible because you and others gave.” Never miss an opportunity to remind her of her critical role in your work.

A loyalty-building newsletter is NOT about:

  • The success and competence of the organization. It’s about the work made possible by the donor. Your successes should be framed as your donors’ accomplishments.
  • The inner workings of the organization. Your director attended an important conference? A much-loved staff member had a baby? Resist the temptation to tell all your donors. Use the space for things more relevant to them.
  • The accomplishments of employees, board members, corporate donors. There are more appropriate and personal ways of thanking and recognizing these key parts of your team. Your newsletter is not the place.

2. You need your donor.
Your newsletter doesn’t have to be an appeal for funds. In fact, it shouldn’t be. But don’t shy away from asking for gifts. Contrary to what some people in the nonprofit world think, being asked is not an annoyance or an intrusion for donors.

Donors want to be wanted. From a donor’s point of view, evidence that you need her tells her that she’s significant! So when you have financial needs, be clear and bold. Ask for help. Donors will reward you by giving.

3. Use the power of story.

Human beings have a need for stories. Stories are a key way we assimilate knowledge. Wise leaders and thinkers throughout human history have used stories to communicate important truths. So does a loyalty-building newsletter.

What is a story? It’s a dramatic account of people overcoming odds and achieving something worthwhile. It has a beginning, middle, and end. A point of view. Tension and resolution. It’s dramatic and well written.

A typical newsletter story goes something like this:

  1. Something is wrong or broken.
  2. Your organization gets involved.
  3. Happy ending: Things were made right.

Take away the first part, and the story collapses. It’s the beginnings of the stories that are unique. That will get readers interested, engaged, reading — and giving gifts because they see the wonderful things that happen when they give. Any storyteller will tell you: Conflict and trouble make a story fascinating. They are also what make our happy endings more meaningful. Don’t be afraid of the painful. As long as it resolves in the end, showing that the donor made a difference, you have a powerful story.

4. Use headlines to keep readers reading.

It doesn’t matter how strong a story is if nobody reads it. Too many nonprofit newsletters obscure their material under bloodless, dispassionate headlines. Your headlines should take sides, have a strong point of view, advocate, shout, tease. The world’s best headline writers work for the supermarket tabloids. They understand an important truth: The headline is what pulls a reader into a story.

Good newsletter headlines should have:

  • Strong verbs. A headline should be a sentence, not a title or a label. Avoid “-ing” verbs — they can really let all the steam out of a headline.
  • Relationships. Because human relationships are innately interesting, feature them in the headline whenever possible.
  • Multiple elements. Kickers (above the main headline) and/or subheads (below) enrich headlines by adding quotations or other interest-generating material.

If your headlines make you cringe — that’s a sign that they’re strong.

Try these principles in your newsletter. You — and your donors — will be very pleased with the results.

Source: Merkle Orange Papers  Copyright © 2007 Merkle Inc. All rights reserved

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About This Blog

Liz Ragland
Manager, Content & Community

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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