Tips to Energize Your Donor NewsletterApril 21, 2009 By Abny Santicola
Donors want newsletters. Research has told us so. But most donor newsletters go unread.
In last month’s Forum For Fundraising webinar on creating highly profitable donor newsletters, Tom Ahern, principal at Ahern | Communications | Ink, explained the disconnect and the reader psychology behind it, told attendees how to speak to donors' personalities, and shared some key secrets behind great donor newsletters.
"I see hundreds of donors newsletters. Almost all are fatally flawed," Ahern said, noting these top seven flaws, in descending order of impact:
Flaw 7: You say it's a donor newsletter, but it lacks the kinds of news that donors care about most. Instead, it's a self-absorbed sales brochure for the organization.
A newsletter isn't a sales medium, Ahern said. Rather, it's a place where you report to donors on what and how your organization is doing in terms of fulfilling its mission. A specific newsletter mistake is running the prototypical "letter from the executive director." In an effort not to offend anyone, these often are bland and not exactly the thing that will draw people to and into the newsletter.
The front page is prime real estate and should be reserved for news of the greatest importance to donors. Donors are interested in:
- accomplishments (What did you do with my money? What did I help do?);
- opportunities (What could you do with my money? What are other ways to help?);
- recognition (Did my support matter? Am I important?) and;
- efficiency (Can I trust you with my money?).
Flaw 6: Your newsletter fails the "you" test. A good newsletter is friendly, even intimate, in tone — not an institutional voice, Ahern said. "'You' is the most powerful word in the marketing lexicon," he added. He recommended doing the "you" test: Get a red pen and go through your newsletter materials, beginning with the outer envelope, and circle every time the word "you" appears to see if you need improvement in this regard. You don't know where people's eyes will land first within your newsletter, so he recommended using the word “you” as often as you can and in many different locations.