Most nonprofits rely on their donor newsletter for communication with their supporters.
They slap it together, click “send,” and mark the item off the old “To Do” list.
The problem is that most donor newsletters are crap.
They’re a waste of time for the reader.
They’re boring, full of jargon, and written in ego-centric language that leaves the reader feeling like an outsider.
Don’t believe me? Put yourself in their shoes for a minute.
Imagine you find a nonprofit that strikes a chord in your heart.
Looks like they’re doing great work, so you make a modest donation online to test the waters.
You get a lukewarm thank-you letter/receipt for your records.
After a while, you get a donor newsletter. You excitedly open it, but there’s not much inside worth reading.
There’s nothing that fans the flames in your heart for their mission. There’s nothing that makes you feel like one of the team.
In short, the newsletter is a flop at making you feel like a valued partner in the nonprofit’s work.
Create a Dynamic, Delightful Donor Newsletter
Instead of boring your donors, let’s set their hearts aflame for your nonprofit’s mission!
Think of your donor newsletter as a chance to give your supporters an update.
Tell her the good news about what her donation made possible.
Give her a reason to feel GOOD about giving to your nonprofit.
Hint: you’re not going to accomplish this at the last minute. You need to give yourself time and space to think and purposefully plan a newsletter that will delight your donor.
A well-done donor newsletter should be something your donor looks forward to.
In order to create that anticipation, you need to train them that your newsletters are worth reading.
How do you do that, you may be wondering? By consistently sending something worth reading.
Haphazard communications don’t work.
Think about it: have you ever had a friend that the only time you heard from them was when they wanted something?
Don’t be that to your donors.
Instead, show up consistently with updates, even when you’re tired or struggling to write.
I know consistency is hard.
The problem is that donor newsletters tend to fall to the bottom of the priority list when things get busy. Next thing you know, your January newsletter is going out in September, and it’s been months since your donors heard anything from you except ask after ask after ask.
That doesn’t feel good at all to a donor. They may be thinking:
“It feels like you just want my money. Do you care about me at all?”
So, make your donor newsletter a priority.
How about not thinking of it as a newsletter at all but as a love letter to your donors to gush on them for their support?
That subtle shift in your thinking will help you create the kind of inspirational newsletter your donor craves.
Donor newsletters need inspiration
Let’s talk inspiration for a minute.
To inspire someone is to influence them or fill them with a particular thought or feeling.
Imagine if you could purposefully influence your donors to feel compassion for the lives you’re trying to change. Would they feel motivated to whip out their wallet to support you to make it happen? Probably.
That’s a lot different than being that person that only shows up with their hand out, wanting something!
Inspiration is the magic that most nonprofits are missing.
And really, it’s hard to inspire donors when you’re busy, overwhelmed or too focused on internal problems.
You have to make time for delivering inspiration. You have to understand your donors well enough to know what will inspire them. You have to plan for it. You have to make the donor experience a priority.
To create loyal donors, you need to provide regular inspiration. You can’t create a video once a year and expect that to move your people to give big all year long. Or send half-baked newsletters whenever you get around to it.
Elements of a Dynamic Donor Newsletter
Ok, so what exactly goes into an ultimate nonprofit email newsletter?
It’s pretty simple. Include these four components in every edition:
1. Story. Share a story about a life that’s been changed because of your nonprofit’s programs. Keep it short and juice it up with close-up photos or video of your programs in action. Donors love feel-good stories that show how they helped make a difference.
Here’s a short and sweet story in a recent newsletter from Draft Gratitude:
2. Visuals. In addition to visuals with your story, share visuals about your mission that the donor can quickly scan. Highlight your activities, volunteer hours, etc. Remember that a picture is worth 1,000 words so stay focused on the visual and keep the text to a minimum. Graphics, infographics, photos, and video can convey messages easily and quickly.
Here’s a great example from the Humane Society of Greater Dayton
3. Engagement. You want your readers to get more involved, right? Then give them something to engage with. Share things like:
- Wish List with items you need (people love to buy stuff for you!)
- How you can help/Volunteer info (people will spend their time where they give)
- “Thanks to you…” (highlight area businesses, civic groups, scout troops, media, and others who have helped you so your donor can see who she knows that’s helping)
Here’s a nice call for volunteers from Multicultural Refugee Coalition:
4. Full contact info. If you’ve done a good job inspiring and motivating your donor, she’ll be ready to take another step. Include an email, a phone number, website, and links to your social media channels so she can find you using the method of her choice.
Fill your idea tank
One of the smartest things you can do is to watch nonprofits that are doing a great job with their donor newsletter and use them for inspiration. Keep a ‘swipe file’ of great newsletters and study them for ideas.