Make no mistake, your favorite charity sends you a newsletter to raise money. It includes a business reply envelope, doesn't it? That's because they want you to donate.
Newsletters provide a change of pace from the standard direct mail letter. It hits a different stage in the donor life cycle, both thanking the donor for their support and celebrating what their gifts accomplished.
Why use a newsletter?
For many donors, the gifts they send enter a black hole from which not even light can escape. They may or may not get a thank you note. And they rarely get any feedback about what their gift actually accomplished.
A lack of feedback from ministries explains why many first time donors never give again. They don't feel appreciated, nor do they feel connected to the ministry's success. Instead they feel like the parents of ungrateful college students who only call when they need money.
The humble newsletter can remedy this problem. You can share the challenges you have faced. Describe successes. Thank the donor for being a part of something wonderful.
Then, and only then, can you add a fundraising appeal and a business reply envelope.
What are your formatting choices?
Newsletters help you tell the story of what's going on at your church or ministry. They often include inspiring pictures that show the successes of the ministry. Newsletters range in length from a few pages to a more magazine length format.
The format you choose depends on a couple of different considerations. There's certainly no one-size-fits-all solution.
1. What's your budget?
8 1/2" x 11" full color newsletters look impressive, but they are expensive. You need to weigh the benefit of a more expensive and slick looking newsletter against the amount of money that you are trying to raise.
You shouldn't be spending $5,000 to distribute a newsletter to raise $6,000. This is just not cost effective. Your cost for preparing and mailing your newsletter should not be more than 10-20% of the amount raised.
So if you're a smaller organization, that might mean you need to simplify your newsletter. Fanciness doesn't always translate into more money, especially if you're working in the human services field.
2. Who is your audience?
Remember that you're sending your newsletters to people. If you're sending them a newsletter, that means they have probably given before or somehow gotten into your database. Most ministries don't send newsletters as an acquisition, because they're too expensive to produce.
So your audience has some connection to your ministry, some reason that support what you do. The newsletter gives you a chance to reinforce that connection by thanking your donors for their generosity and giving feedback about how their gifts enabled something awesome.
Also, you need to know your donor's tastes. Human services donors tend to want you to stretch their donations for maximum impact. A very fancy newsletter might look wasteful.
On the other hand, if you're raising money for a hospital, college, or orchestra, your donors might expect something that more professional.
3. What is the right tone?
Setting the right tone in your newsletter is important. A newsletter that sounds like it's bragging about the awesomeness of the organization can sometimes turn donors off. Instead, think of the newsletter as a way of thanking the donor for all of the good work that their gifts make possible.
The newsletter gives the direct mail donor a window into the activities that their donations have supported. A tone of humble gratitude seems to be effective in most cases.
Direct your audience's attention to the work. Share testimonies of people served by the ministry. Paint a picture of where the ministry plans to go and do.
My parents give to a ministry that does a great job telling the stories of missionaries in the field in their newsletters . They love reading the newsletters and feel affirmed in choice to keep giving.
4. Things to avoid.
Some traps that you might want to avoid:
Gala event photos - More than one newsletter prominently features the recent gala event. While the gala supports your mission, it's not directly connected to your mission. Save the gala photos for your social media messaging and focus your newsletter on mission activities.
Bragging - It's not likely that your donors are going to enjoy a newsletter that brags about your awesomeness. The exception might be college sports organizations, but even there you want to make the donor feel like they are a part of something awesome, rather than just an observer on the outside who is looking at something awesome.
No ask - Even though you're sharing the successes of your ministry, you still need to subtly ask. You haven't completed your mission or won the war, although you have won some battles. You still need to make the case for additional funding and what it will do for the people you serve.
Your newsletter format can vary in several ways.
- Page length - The length of the newsletter largely determines the cost to create the content and print. This doesn't mean that a longer newsletter can't work. One of the best newsletters I know is the magazine length Imprint produced by the Sisters of Life.
- Color vs. accent color vs. black and white - You can have a full color brochure, use a single accent color, or print in black in white.
- Matte vs. glossy - The look of a newsletter changes dramatically based on the choice between matte or glossy.
- Delivery choices - You can put the newsletter in an envelope or print the mailing address directly on the outside of the newsletter.
Make a connection.
The humble newsletter enables you to reconnect with your donors in a meaningful way. And in fundraising, connection equals support.
If your newsletter is already producing five to ten times what it costs to produce, congratulations! If not, look at how you're thanking your donors and drawing them into the importance of your mission.
Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.
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