Now more than ever, communicating with your donors is an integral piece of the fundraising puzzle. One way to make a big impact, especially during a pandemic, is by creating fundraising newsletters.
Fundraising newsletters, especially if they are donor-centric, will effectively increase donor retention and result in donations. Yes, you heard me right, newsletters are fundraising vehicles that can and should be used to solicit donations, especially during these difficult times.
What is a donor responsive newsletter?
Donor responsive or donor-centric newsletters focus on giving gratitude to donors, acknowledging the role donors play in helping others, and showing how their money is spent wisely. Most of all, newsletters provide integral information that allows donors to make the decision to give again.
There are certain elements that should be included to create fundraising newsletters during a pandemic and to make newsletters donor responsive. The following 12 newsletter tips will help your organization create donor responsive newsletters resulting in improved stewardship, higher donor retention, and much-needed donations.
1. Since the impact of COVID is on everyone’s minds these days, the first tip will be to include information that will help donors understand how COVID is impacting your organization. How has the coronavirus impacted those you serve? What are you doing as a result? Why do you need the donor’s help and perhaps require extra funding due to the current circumstances? Donors want to know. A succinct paragraph or two is all that is needed on this subject.
Take-away: Don’t steer clear of the COVID issue.
2. Provide one or two emotionally charged, heartfelt stories about someone or something impacted by your organization. Putting a “face” to the story allows the donor to emotionally connect and as a result will invoke empathy. This, in turn, results in donations. Let the donor “meet” the people who have been helped, through storytelling.
Take-away: Emotionally compelling stories are impactful. Steer clear of facts and statistics.
3. Show the donor what they accomplished by donating. You can do this by connecting the compelling heartfelt stories, that we discussed above, to the donor’s generosity. Donors want to know they are a part of the solution.
Take-away: Show how and what the donor’s contributions allowed your organization to accomplish.
4. Donors want to feel good about giving to your organization. They want to know that by giving, they made a good decision and they spent their money wisely. A quote from someone helped can convey this information in a way that will deeply resonate with donors.
Take-away: Make absolutely sure donors know their gift made a difference.
5. Include a story about a problem not yet solved, and how the donor can solve that problem. You want the donor to keep on giving, therefore you need to give the donor a reason to give.
The story that I talk about in #2 above shows how the donor’s gift has helped and how the donor solved the problem by making a donation.
If you want a donor to continue giving, it is important to include another story about a problem that has not yet been solved. Convey why the donor needs to keep giving, why continued donations are needed, and who or what will be impacted by the donors’ help. Make sure the donor understands why continued donations are needed by conveying an ongoing problem and how the donor is the solution to that problem.
Take-away: Newsletters provide ways to convey your fundraising needs during healthy times as well as during a pandemic.
6. Provide value to the donors’ gift. Tying in various gift levels and what those levels provide, such as, $25 feeds 5 dogs for a month, $50 provides shelter for 20 animals, etc. provides specific information about a particular need and the cost to fill that need. Another variation, “$1 a day feeds 6 shelter dogs, that’s just $30 a month.”
Including this information directly in the newsletter gives the donor a strong incentive to give again by providing transparency as to what donations are used for.
Take-away: Provide donors with a need and the cost to fill that need.
7. Use the word “you” and not “we” in your copy. The newsletter should be directed to “you.” You being the donor. Incorporating copy such as ‘Because of you…”, “You’re the reason…”, “We couldn’t have done it without you,” speaks directly to the donor.
Take-away: Do not use the word “we” or information about how great the organization is. Those topics have nothing to do with the donor or how their money is being spent.
8. Thank the donor several times throughout the newsletter and reiterate the importance of their donation. This lets the donors know that their gift was appreciated, that they are valued, and they are helping make a difference. You can accomplish showing gratitude by including thank you copy into a story or in “call out” boxes throughout the newsletter.
Take-away: You can’t thank a donor enough.
9. Utilize photos and captions throughout the newsletter. Keep a photo library and choose images that convey emotion. However, when possible write stories around the photos, not the other way around. Including captions near each photo will spark the donor’s interest to read the full story. Without captions, however, donors might make their own conclusions about the photo.
Take-away: Include compelling photos with captions.
10. Make the newsletter easy to read. Many donors scan and don’t fully read newsletters. Include enticing headlines, bold fonts, underscores, background shading, and italics. Make the articles shorter than longer in length. Don’t forget to use pull quotes for emphasis, as room allows.
Take-away: Use simple design elements to make newsletters easy to read.
11. Ask and you will receive. Newsletters are not only communication devices, they’re opportunities to get donors to give again. Tests have clearly shown that asking a donor to give and including a call to action. By including a donate button in an email newsletter or a donation form in your direct mail newsletter, you will receive donations.
Take-away: Don’t be afraid to ask for a donation in your newsletter.
12. Newsletters that are emailed or included in a direct mail appeal are the most responsive. But please, do not create a self-mailer newsletter. They just don’t work.
Take-away: Do not use a self-mailer newsletter.
Newsletters should essentially be a long-term, integral part of your nonprofit’s stewardship efforts. These 12 tips will help you create donor responsive newsletters that strengthen retention rates and increase much-needed donations that are especially needed in these trying times.
If you have any questions or wish to discuss making your next newsletter donor responsive, contact me today.
For the covid dashboard: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html