If you are familiar with Penelope Burk’s Donor-Centered Fundraising, you know that communication plays a key role in retaining donors. Aside from your appeals and your thank you letters, how you connect with your donors throughout the year will reinforce their bond with your organization. The ubiquitous newsletter is one of the best ways to keep in touch with donors and keep them abreast of what’s going on with your organization.
So why do so many nonprofit organizations muck up in this area and fail to deliver?
The newsletter is too long.
Frankly I believe one page – two pages tops – is plenty long enough for a donor newsletter. People are generally far too busy these days to have more than the attention span of gnats and I can’t remember when I spent more than five minutes reading a newsletter. This isn’t a magazine, folks. You want your reader to sit down with your newsletter in hand and read it – not put it aside to read later (translation: never read and eventually tossed).
And save the full color with glossy stock for your annual report, if you publish one. Donors generally don’t like to think that their money is being spent wastefully.
In 2006 you published a quarterly newsletter. In 2007 you published a monthly newsletter. In 2008 you changed executive directors and only got out one newsletter.
Make up your mind!
My preference is a quarterly or three times a year newsletter. You want to give your volunteers, board members and donors enough information – but you don’t want to saturate them (and, by the way, don’t send your newsletters to those foundations who are supporting you). Studies show that a newsletter mailed three times a year is as effective as a quarterly piece.
The newsletter is boring.
Is your lead article a piece highlighting your “remarkable” executive director – complete with a glam photo?
Donors don’t wanna hear about it.
Donors want to hear about your work. They want engaging and heartfelt stories about the clients you’re serving, complete with photographs and testimonials. Highlight successes in every issue and volunteer involvement. Make note of any unique fundraising opportunities. Assign a regular column to a volunteer, donor or client.
Make the newsletter about them.
I’ve always left out the return donation envelope and saved it for my individual appeals. To me the newsletter is a key communication piece – not a solicitation. However there are definitely two schools of thought on this.
Have short interesting articles that are easy to read. Avoid technical jargon and excessive bragging.
Make use of a number of photographs featuring close-ups.
Encourage two-way communication. Direct your reader to an online survey (survey monkey is one of many terrific online tools) or contest.
Begin cultivating email addresses and begin a shorter, monthly e-newsletter as well.
Provide up-to-date contact information.
What are your tips for effective donor communication?