publication date: May 16, 2012
author/source: Alan Sharpe
The difference between a good donor newsletter and a poor
one comes down to donors and dollars. A good newsletter retains donors and
makes money. A poor one doesn't. Here are 12 ways to improve your donor
newsletter so that it works harder for you.
1. Make your donor
the hero of every story
Take the focus off your institution and put it where it
belongs: on the person who pays your salary. Donors want to read about
themselves, not your charity.
2. Make each issue a
report card to your donor
Prove that you are using donors' gifts wisely and as
intended. Show how their donations are making a difference. Act as if you won't
get another dime of support unless your donor gives you an A grade, an A for
3. Don't celebrate
Donors don't care that you're celebrating your 20th
anniversary, or that you did something special in 1968. They give to
organizations that look ahead, not backwards.
4. Make your donors
reach for the Kleenex
Stir the emotions of your supporters so that they identify
even more closely with the people you help. Help them feel at a visceral level
that they are touching lives with their support.
5. Give your donors the
in Australia has a page in its newsletter entitled "Why We Do What
We Do." It doesn't tell you what they do. It explains why they do it, the
"because." Do likewise and you will retain more donors and raise more money.
6. Fine yourself
$1,000 for every cliché photo
No more ribbon-cutting ceremony with the over-size scissors,
cheque-passing ceremony with the over-size cheque, ground-breaking ceremony
with the people in suits putting shovels into the ground, or the grip-and-grin
photo with the awkward-looking host handing over the plaque to the equally
awkward-looking recipient. If the photo has been done to death, bury it.
7. Write about
people, not programs
People give to people to help people. No more stories about
your board retreat, awards your staff have won, or staff promotions. Make sure
every story has a strong human-interest angle.
8. Put captions under
No photo is worth a thousand words. Otherwise silent movies
would still be silent. And People
wouldn't need a proofreader.
9. Write photo
captions that tell the reader what she can't see
If the photo is of a child riding a horse, don't write,
"Children in our program ride horses." Instead, write, "Billy didn't talk until
he rode his first horse, Presidente. Now he speaks in full sentences, thanks to
our therapeutic riding program, which is funded by our generous donors."
10. Put your donor in
your headline, subhead or opening paragraph, or all three
Example: "Thanksgiving dinner at the mission beats all
records with 1,865 homeless served, thanks to our donors."
11. Answer the one
and only question
Make each newsletter article, column, news story, editorial
and profile answer the only question your donors have: "What good have you done
with my donation?"
12. Offer your donors
many ways to donate
Include a tear-out coupon. Enclose a business reply
envelope. Print your website address on every page. Supply a toll-free number
Alan Sharpe is
a fundraising practitioner, author, trainer and speaker. Through his weekly
email newsletter, books, handbooks and workshops, Alan helps nonprofit
organizations worldwide to acquire more donors, raise more funds and build
stronger relationships. Alan is the senior strategist at Harvey McKinnon Associates.