How to Use Donor Newsletters to Raise More Money for Your Non-Profit

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1 How to Use Donor Newsletters to Raise More Money for Your Non-Profit by Joe Garecht TheFundraisingAuthority.com Week #1: The Fundamentals of Successful Donor Newsletters (both Snail Mail and )

2 Welcome to our class How to Use Donor Newsletters to Raise More Money for Your Non- Profit! I m so that you re joining me for this class. Over the next five weeks, we re going to be taking an in depth look at how your organization can harness the power of newsletters to build better relationships with your donors, find new prospects, and raise more money for your organization. Before we begin, I want to remind you that if you have any questions about what you are learning, or if you want to review a specific idea to see if it will work at your organization, you may me at any time at and I would be happy to answer your questions and help you think through the strategies that we are presenting. Newsletters are one of the best ways to stay in touch with your donors. They re scalable, easy to create, and can help any organization strengthen and deepen its relationships with donors of all sizes. But many non-profits are wasting time and money creating newsletters that no one wants to read. Others are spending far too much time and resources on publishing their newsletters. My goal for this class is to take an orderly look at all of the strategies you can use to launch, grow, and supercharge your donor newsletter program. This week, we re going to look at the fundamentals of strong donor newsletters. While some of this information may seem basic (particularly if your non-profit already has a successful newsletter), I promise you that there s lots of great information in this week s module that can help even seasoned newsletter programs grow and thrive. Over the coming weeks, we ll also be talking about how to get more people onto your newsletter list, how to create and design great newsletters, how to supercharge fundraising through your newsletter program and more. Let s get started! What Do We Mean by Newsletters Before we begin, it is important to understand what we mean when we talk about non-profit newsletters. There are two main kinds of newsletters: Snail Mail Paper newsletters mailed in a variety of formats including in envelopes, as self-mailers, large format newsprint, etc. Electronic newsletters sent through services like Constant Contact, AWeber, MailChimp, or one provided by your donor database package We re going to look at both types of newsletters as part of this course. No matter whether they are snail mail or , newsletters usually contain a mix of updates on your work, profiles of your staff, volunteers and clients, news items on your events and other happenings, as well as some fundraising updates and information. 2

3 Formats, length, and items included in donor newsletters vary widely from organization to organization, and that s ok, because every organization s readership is different. What is important is that your organization creates newsletters that fit your mission and readership and that make people want to read and share them. The Purposes of Non-Profit Newsletters Have you ever thought about WHY you send out donor newsletters? Or WHY most non-profits send out some form of newsletter, either snail mail or ? It is important that you understand the purpose of your newsletter so that you can make decisions on design and content that reflect that purpose. The primary purpose of your newsletters is donor and prospect cultivation. Remember - all fundraising is based on building relationships. Building relationships requires you to communicate with your donors. The more your donors and prospects hear from you, and the more they know about you, the more they feel like part of your team. Your non-profit newsletters are valuable tools for building and maintaining relationships. Thus, they are a cultivation tool. For this reason, I advocate never fundraising in your newsletters. This is a controversial position. Many consultants and development professionals, including some well-known authors and speakers, advocate making asks in your newsletters. They do this primarily because they know that it works. You will get donations in response to making asks in your newsletters or including donation envelopes when you send them out. But while you will get some donations, your newsletter isn t a particularly compelling fundraising piece. So you won t get as many as if you had sent out a fundraising or letter. Think about it when non-profits fundraise through a newsletter, it is most often with a short ask line like To Support Our Work, Please Use this Envelope to Donate Today! People then use the envelope (or click the button) and make a small donation. When you send out your appeal letter, fundraising letter, event invitations or make your ask over the phone, people may feel that they have already given, because they gave to your newsletter. This is unfortunate, because you will likely get FAR MORE per donor if you get to do a real, developed ask (such as a true fundraising letter, , or phone call) than with an afterthought ask in your newsletter. Here s another reason not to make fundraising asks in your newsletters: if you fundraise in your newsletter, it turns the newsletter into a FUNDRAISING piece instead of a cultivation piece. This creates a lost opportunity for your non-profit. My rule of thumb is that you should always send 2-4 cultivation communications for every ask or solicitation you make. If you are making asks in your newsletters what type of cultivation mailings or communications will you do? 3

4 You need to make sure that you are communicating with your donors often without always making asks. Otherwise, donors will get tired of all the fundraising, and begin to feel used. Newsletters are one of the best ways to communicate with your donors in between asks. I have found that having your newsletters be strictly about relationship building will make your asks (when you do them) much more successful. My advice is to never use your donor newsletters to make fundraising asks. I also suggest not including a donor envelope with your newsletter. Instead, use your newsletter as part of a robust donor communications strategy that includes 1 ask for every 2-4 cultivation pieces you send out. In other words, you can definitely raise money by asking for donations through your newsletter, buy you can raise far more money by using your newsletter as a relationship building tool, and then sending out standalone fundraising asks to your newsletter list. This is true for both snail mail and newsletters. The most successful non-profits I have worked with have used their snail mail and newsletters as the backbone of their donor communications and cultivation program. Secondary Purposes of Non-Profit Newsletters In addition to your newsletter s primary purpose of donor cultivation, your non-profit s newsletters also serve several important secondary purposes, including: Donor Recognition: Newsletters can be a great place to thank and recognize your donors, highlight sponsors, announce major gifts and partnerships, etc. Event Calendars and Reminders: Many non-profits use their newsletters to remind donors of upcoming non-ask and fundraising events and other dates of interest. Volunteer Recognition and Recruitment: Your newsletter is a great place to highlight volunteer opportunities as well as recognize and thank your current volunteers. Remember it is important to understand the purpose of your newsletter. You need to understand that it is primarily a donor cultivation tool, and use it accordingly. Many non-profits don t understand this and spin their wheels with their newsletters. Newsletters can be time consuming, and if you use paper newsletters, they can be costly as well so you need to make sure that if you are sending them, they are worth it for you. Many non-profits that aren t clear about their newsletter purpose and waste time trying to raise more money directly from newsletters, and then get frustrated with the results. Don t make this mistake! 4

5 Why Every Non-Profit Should Use Donor Newsletters I believe that every non-profit should be using donor newsletters to stay in touch with their prospects and donors. At the very least, every non-profit should be sending out newsletters the cost is negligible, they can be set up in just a few hours per issue, and I have never, ever seen a nonprofit who used newsletters the right way lose in terms of a cost-benefit analysis you should always raise more on a yearly basis when you use e-newsletters than you spend in time and money to create them. Some, but not all, non-profits should be using paper newsletters as well. This is a question of cost and impact. Every non-profit is different the question is, would your donor base like to receive a regular newsletter from you through the mail? Would it make them feel closer to your organization? Here are some ways to decide whether or not your non-profit should be sending out paper (snail mail) newsletters: You should consider using a paper / snail mail newsletter in addition to your newsletter, if you raise the majority of your money outside of direct mail (meaning you raise most of your money through donor clubs, events, individual and annual giving, monthly giving, major gifts, etc.) and you can afford to send at least 3 snail mail newsletters each year. You should consider NOT using a paper / snail mail newsletter if you raise most of your money through direct mail, or if you can t afford to send at least 3 paper newsletters per year, or if your non-profit raises less than $1 million per year (if you raise less, it may not be worth your time or money to send out these newsletters it s not a definite no, but it is a consideration). Remember, you can segment your list and send out newsletters to everyone, and paper / snail mail newsletters to your mid-level and higher donors, but not your low-dollar donors, if that makes sense for your organization. Quick and Easy Newsletter Design Guide Now that we have discussed the fundamental rules for great newsletters, let s take look at some quick and easy design guidelines that can help you send amazing newsletters. Over the next two weeks, we ll be looking at and snail mail newsletter creation and design in much more depth, but here are some rules and guidelines that apply to both and snail mail newsletters: 5

6 Design for Readers and Scanners In order to send out successful non-profit newsletters, you need to understand your audience. Non-profit fundraisers need to step into the shoes of their intended newsletter recipients and look at it from their perspective how do they feel about what they are receiving? Most people are busy. They work, they raise a family, they have community obligations, bills to pay, things to do. They don t have a ton of time to read your newsletter. In fact, most people are constantly on the lookout for junk mail meaning that when they pick up their mail, most people sort through it quickly to see what is important and what isn t, often on their way to the trash can to throw out or recycle those items that they don t intend to read. Sadly, most people go through their mail assuming that the vast majority of it will be junk. This applies equally to your newsletters most people assume that a large proportion of their inbox is spam or stuff they signed-up for, but don t intend to read unless it really catches their eye. What does this mean for your non-profit? It means that you need to design your newsletters with this fact in mind. Remember that when it comes to your donor communications, you are basically designing for three distinct audiences: The 10 Second Club Many of your readers fall into this category. These are the folks that look at your newsletter and walk it to the trash can (or click delete) almost immediately. In other words, they have your piece/ in their hands or on their screens for approximately 10 seconds. The Skimmers A smaller number of your readers are skimmers people who look through your newsletter on the way to trash can, reading headlines and looking at pictures (or who skim the content of each before hitting delete). They will generally have your piece in their hands for seconds, maybe more if something catches their eye. The Readers Fewer and farther between, these people actually take the time to read your entire newsletter. They generally will look through your piece for 5-10 minutes, reading the headlines and drilling down into the text. These people are either very interested in your particular issue or non-profit, or tend to be older, retired folks who enjoy receiving and reading newsletters The key is to design your newsletters with the knowledge that most people will hold it in their hands for 30 seconds or less and will use that time to decide whether or not to keep reading. You will need to use certain elements of your design to make people understand what you are trying to say, and to want to read more or perhaps set your newsletter aside to read when they have more time. Thus, you need to design for both readers AND scanners. 6

7 How can you design your newsletter to catch the attention of those who simply scan it, to either get them to read the newsletter or to at least tell some of your story in the second you have before they throw it out or hit delete? Here s how: Use headlines Use bold text, italics, etc. Use columns for snail mail newsletters, single column for newsletters Use large enough text so that the newsletter looks easy to read (11pt or higher) Use color and pictures Use pull quotes and highlight boxes Remember, when people are SKIMMING your snail mail or newsletter, they are looking at the headlines and pictures and pull quotes and deciding whether or not to read on. If you don t use these things, they will just decide not to read. If you DO use them, make them interesting, emotional, and worthwhile. Make people want to read on! Some other tips for making people want to read your non-profit s newsletters include: Use clear, standard fonts. Don t get creative with fonts on either or snail mail newsletters. Make sure you show your newsletter to several people to make sure the fonts and color scheme are clear and easy to read. Include lots of white space / clear space in your newsletters they shouldn t look like walls of text. If people think your newsletter looks hard to read, they won t read it! Use bullet points and lists people love to read them, they seem easy to read, and are a great way to include lots of white space in your newsletters. Make sure your e-newsletter template comes up looking nice on mobile devices. Many e-newsletter mailing list providers provide mobile responsive templates this is important, because many people access their on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. For newsletters, be careful who you put in the from field many people delete s if they don t know who it is from. Thus, you should either put the name of your non-profit in the FROM line or the name of someone that almost all of your donors know (like the CEO, if he or she is well known in the organization) ALONG with the organization name (FROM: Allison Smith, Urban Shelter Association) 7

8 The 7 Steps for Writing a Supercharged Non-Profit Newsletter So how do you actually write your newsletters? What is the process you should use to create the content of each newsletter and get it out to your list? And how can you get your newsletters out without wasting time or money in the process? Here are the 7 steps I use at non-profits I work with to actually write, design and produce amazing newsletters: STEP #1 Outline This Issue The first step is to create an outline of everything you want to go into this issue of the newsletter: Article topics Pictures you want to include Data / Research you need done Upcoming events for your events calendar In our bonus guide after the final week of the class, we ll go over 15 different content ideas you can use to keep your newsletter interesting and engaging STEP #2 Assign & Create Deadlines Consider using a team at your organization (including staff and/or volunteers) to help you create your content. You can have different people write articles, take pictures, do research, etc. Assign each item from your outline to one of your team members and set firm deadlines for when the work is due. Even if you are doing it all yourself, still set a firm deadline, and stick to it! STEP #3 Collect and Edit Work Have everyone turn in their work. Then, hold a meeting to discuss the items that people turned in what did they find that was interesting? Did their work help them think of any articles that should be included in future issues? Do they need help with some phrasing or anything in their items? Have someone edit each of the items that were turned in for spelling, grammar and clarity. If you are doing all the work yourself, have someone else take a look and edit your work. STEP #4 Layout the Newsletter Once the items are all edited, it is time to lay out the actual newsletter. Remember the design tips we mentioned earlier: lots of white space, headlines, pull quotes, bolded words, pictures, etc. 8

9 If you are using a mail house for your snail mail newsletters, you should do the basic layout (where you want things) and they should do the actual nitty gritty of the layout. Have several people at your organization take a look to make sure your newsletter is readable and appealing. STEP #5 Send a Test or See a Paper Proof ALWAYS do a test before finalizing your newsletter either send out a test of your e- newsletter, or ask the mail house to send you a PDF proof of the newsletter that you can print out and see in color. Check one last time to make sure everything looks good. For e-newsletters, look on your computer AND on some mobile devices. STEP #6 Final Edits and Total Quality Management Make your final edits and have someone do TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT (TQM) this means making one final detailed pass for spelling errors, capitalization, making sure the newsletter matches the look and feel of your organization, etc. Then, make any necessary changes. STEP #7 Send the Newsletter! Finally, send the newsletter (hit send or tell the mail house to send) if doing paper newsletters, have the mail house print up some extra ones that you can use for visitors to your office, events, etc. These 7 steps may seem daunting, but once you get the hang of it, they become second nature and make the process much easier to coordinate. Your Donor Communications Calendar As I said earlier, at many organizations the donor newsletter serves as the backbone of the nonprofit s donor communications efforts. In this week s podcast, we ll talk about your donor communications calendar and see where your and snail mail newsletters fit in to your overall communications program. Remember, if you have any questions about this week s class guide or podcast, please them to me at 9

How to Use Donor Newsletters to Raise More Money for Your Non-Profit

How to Use Donor Newsletters to Raise More Money for Your Non-Profit How to Use Donor Newsletters to Raise More Money for Your Non-Profit by Joe Garecht TheFundraisingAuthority.com Week #5: The Complete Guide to Using Donor Newsletters to Raise More Money, Starting Today!

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