Creating a newsletter that works

For many organizations, newsletters are a dreaded part of their mail program - and for good reason. Even though they only go out a few times a year, they can take a significant amount of planning, time and work. And, unless you're creating a newsletter that actually works, they're a drain on your resources (at best, breaking even).

But have no fear! Creating a newsletter that works isn't difficult - in fact, we have some super tips on how to compose a newsletter that not only is a vital component of your stewardship program but is ALSO a fundraising tool.

Set it up for success
Consistently time your newsletters - three times throughout the year - and always include a personalized remit device and return envelope. Perhaps a donor is moved by a story in your newsletter and feels compelled to give a gift - make it easy for them to do so. If you aren't already including them, these two pieces alone will lift your response rate.

Don't forget to ask
Just because your newsletter educates your donors, it doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for a donation. If you are describing a capital campaign or a new program that needs funding, be sure your article includes a clear, strong ask for a gift. If you don't ask, donors will assume you have sufficient funds.

Use consistent formatting and branding
Have a content and placement template and follow the format each time. Regular readers will come to expect certain content in the same location. A consistent layout allows donors to easily get the information that most interests them. Consistent branding also makes your publication easily recognizable and will integrate with the rest of your marketing materials.

White space is mandatory
For each column or story, keep the length brief and to the point. Use strong headlines, compelling pull quotes and clear calls to action.

Optimize your prime real estate
The front and back covers of your newsletter are prime real estate! Use your front cover to focus on a specific, positive story that is breathtaking and/or heart wrenching. The back cover can showcase your next event, highlight a program that needs special funding, feature naming opportunities or thank your recent planned giving donors. Consider placing the executive director column on page two or three.

Paint the picture
Let photos tell your story, but don't forget to use copy to paint the picture as well. Most people will not read every article, so concentrate on writing strong, captivating content through your headlines and captions. Readers tend to skim over your newsletter and are drawn to items that stand out on the page - photos, call outs, pull quotes, headlines and captions. So what you place at the "skimming level" is crucial because some readers will only look at these items.

Use verbs written in active rather than passive voice - they are key to your strategy. Provide website addresses where more information or videos can capture their interest and further engage them.

Make another reduction
Edit your content ruthlessly, revise often and proofread. Never lose sight that your newsletter represents the best of your organization. Avoid giving your supporters a negative impression due to typos, poor grammar or outdated information.

Please do this next
Make certain there are calls to action that engage the reader and move them to immediately act. Invite them to donate, volunteer, register, tell a friend, learn more, write an email or make a call! Engaged donors are retained longer and become stronger advocates. 

When done correctly, your newsletter will grow your relationship with donors and keep them engaged with your organization. And, it will become a successful fundraising tool. Your newsletter can and should serve more than just one purpose for your organization ... but does it?


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