- Sun, February 11 2007
- Filed under: How to improve emails and newsletters
I get about a dozen nonprofit newsletters a week, either via email or in snail-mail. Most are so poor they aren’t worth reading, and for that reason, they weren’t worth writing. There are notable exceptions, thanks to people like Kivi, who is hosting a carnival on the topic this week, but in general, I feel about newsletters the same way I feel about most mission statements—nonprofits spend a whole lot of time on them, but no one much cares. Newsletters? Not so much. So how do you become the dazzling exception? Here are three suggestions.
1. Don’t do a newsletter, do something different.
People are inundated with newsletters, just like they are with wristbands and appeals with address labels. Yawn. So why not put your time and energy into something more unique and personalized? Like a phone call from your staff five minutes after someone gives (see yesterday’s post), or journal entries from program beneficiaries?
2. If you do a newsletter, write to the medium.
If you do a newsletter through the mail, fine, if it follows #3 on this list. But if you are doing an electronic newsletter, you CANNOT simply take the format you would use in the mail and throw it into an email! Write to the medium. Online communications need to be shorter and formatted for the web. You should not have to download a PDF and turn pages on your computer. Grab attention with photos, short text, good stories.
3. Make it about the donors and what they did—or whoever is your target audience.
The newsletter should not be about how great you are, it should make your donor feel important. It should be about how great your donor (or audience member) is. And it should do something for that audience - make them feel good about themselves, or, if you’re a membership organization, make their life easier. Giving out information about your charity is not the same thing as making someone feel good! I like what CARE does - they always start newsletters with a thank-you, although the last one I got was a little cold—“In fiscal year 2006, our generous and committed donors enabled CARE to reach 55 million people in 66 countries. The following are just a few glimpses of the difference your support has made over the past year.” “Fiscal year” is not a warm and fuzzy word.
I’m waiting for someone to make the newsletter so much about the donor that they use technology to insert the name of the donor in the newsletter title. I’d be blown away with a newsletter called “How Katya has helped CARE,” for example, instead of being part of a good fiscal year. Even if you don’t go that far, do everything you can to write to the audience and their interests. That’s the key to a good newsletter, and the key to all marketing, always. Consumers expect us to talk to them personally, and we have to deliver.