This is the second post in our series on donor-centered print newsletters. The kind of newsletters that delight donors and raise more money for your nonprofit.
The first post was about the purpose of your newsletter. This post is the second and final Big Idea you need to succeed.
And after this – I promise – the posts will get tactical.
But if you don’t know this one idea, all the tactics in the world won’t help very much.
A Powerful, Unexpected Question
It’s 1994. I’m less than a year out of college working at a fundraising agency that specializes in helping large nonprofits raise money. And I’m writing my first newsletter.
I handed my draft to my boss – an accomplished, brilliant fundraiser.
He read the first story, scanned the rest of the stories, and handed the stack of paper back to me.
Then he asked me a powerful but unexpected question:
“Why Are You Writing About the Organization?”
I didn’t know it at the moment, but that was one of the most powerful lessons I ever learned about effective fundraising.
At the time all I could do was say, “What do you mean? It’s … the organization’s newsletter.”
“Sure.” My boss said, “but most donors aren’t reading a newsletter to find out anything about the organization. They are reading it to find out if their gift made a difference.
“The most effective newsletters are written to show donors what their gift accomplished. And the best way to do that is through stories about beneficiaries.
“So stop talking about the organization and its programs. Start talking about the donor and telling her stories about lives that have been changed because of her kindness. Then she’ll think it was a great idea to give to the organization, and be more likely to give again.”
So … I went back to my office to do a complete rewrite.
But I was a far more effective fundraiser from that moment forward.
As you create your newsletter, you will be tempted to “write about your organization.”
People in your organization will even push you to write about your organization.
They’ll say things like, “But we have to tell people about everything we do and tell them that we’re good at it!”
No. You don’t. In fact, when you do, fewer donors will read your newsletter. Because hearing about your organization is not why they are reading. They are reading because they are hoping to hear about themselves. Whether and how their gift made a difference. Whether they are a valuable part of your organization.
Keep this idea in mind as you read this series. Then all the tactics – the writing style, the headlines, the picture captions – will make sense.
You’ll start keeping your donors for longer. And your newsletter will become a major revenue source!