Your newsletter should be a ‘donor newsletter’ – start by calling it that name and you’ll already begin to hold the correct focus. The purpose of your newsletter is to:
Next, let’s look at what your donor newsletter shouldn’t be:
Now let’s look at the timing and format for your newsletter:
Ideally, you should be producing at least two donor newsletters per year, and they should be timed to mail between your appeal mailings so that not every communication with donors is based on a specific and direct ‘ask’.
The masthead (title) should be attractive and eye-catching and relevant to your work.
Use at least two colours (and nowadays, four-colour printing is about as inexpensive as two colours). Print the body copy in black (easily readable) and pictures in full colour.
For body copy use at least an 11 point Serif typeface (such as Times New Roman) – proven by research to be more readable and readily comprehended.
By all means use a Sans-Serif typestyle (like Arial) for headlines – but keep the body copy in Serif.
Use two, or even three columns across the page (so as not to have long lines of copy that are difficult to read).
Avoid type reversed out of a solid background, and avoid ‘watermark’ designs behind body copy (destroys readability).
Remember that the average donor to a direct mail appeal is an older person who is often likely to have less-than-perfect eyesight – another reason to keep body copy at a size that can be easily read.
Intersperse your stories with inspirational quotations or snippets of useful information.
Always choose a striking article and strong headline for the front page to attract immediate attention and interest.
Make sure that your headlines (and body copy) are donor focused and feature words like ‘you’ rather than ‘we’ and ‘our’.
Use good pictures showing people – and some close-ups so that you can see the eyes of the people in the photos.
Tell stories that provide feedback on the people and projects which you have featured in your recent appeal letters.
You don’t need a heavy, glossy paper for your newsletter – this often gives older folks the impression of wasteful use of funds. An 80 gram Bond is quite sufficient, and even newsprint is often enough. Always include a pre-addressed donation form (or ‘deepflap’ reply envelope) with a ‘soft ask’. This can usually be used as the address piece when you mail your newsletter in a DL window outer envelope (thus avoiding ugly and impersonal address labels on the outer envelope and at the same time making it much easier for donors to respond).
So there you have it – what amounts to a checklist of donor newsletter ‘dos and don’ts’. Perhaps you’d like to try scoring your newsletters against our recommendations to see how you stack up?
What I can promise you is that if you follow these simple guidelines, you will find that your newsletter: