10 tips for great newsletter interviews

by guest blogger Jennifer Miller

A great donor newsletter is filled with powerful stories that reveal the lives of real people. Too often, though, newsletters read like meeting notes from an advisory board luncheon.

Compelling stories that motivate donors don’t just drop out of the sky. Landing an interview with someone who can talk about how they were helped is tough. Coaxing the right details from them is tougher still. You have to be part psychologist, part reporter, and always fully prepared.

Here are ten key tips for a better interview:

Do


  • Do bring a list of open-ended questions so you don’t get one-word answers.
  • Do create a comfortable environment. You don’t have to sit at a giant table. Try taking your interview outside. Sit on the ground if the interview involves kids. Make it feel natural — like you’re just chatting.
  • Do make small talk first. It’s a litmus test for determining their comfort level in even talking, much less revealing personal details.
  • Do ask pointed questions to get answers that will add color and dimension to your article. It’s not so much leading the witness as framing your story.
  • Do keep the donor in mind. The story isn’t just about how someone was helped — but how someone was helped because of the donor. Without the donor, you wouldn’t even be doing this interview in the first place.

Don’t


  • Don’t immediately bring out your camera and tape recorder. You’ll get to that later, once your subject is more comfortable.
  • Don’t have more people involved than needed. You and the subject are all that matters. The more people listening in, the more it becomes an uncomfortable group interview.
  • Don’t forget to take as many interesting photos as possible. Someone looking over their mountain of bills, or a child getting licked by their therapy dog — these are much more compelling than a standard head shot.
  • Don’t overlook children. If you’ve gotten approval to talk to a child with their guardian present, ask questions kids will actually respond to. (Bad: Was it hard to go to school hungry? Good: If you could make it rain any food from the sky, what would it be?)
  • Don’t forget the donor. Put yourself in the donor’s shoes, and ask the questions they would about how their gift made a difference.

Then, write the most inspiring story you can so the donor won’t think twice about continuing to make that difference.


Comments

2 responses to “10 tips for great newsletter interviews”

  1. Mcmullek Avatar

    1st time commenting although I am a frequent lurker of this blog. Great tips and, for what it’s worth, they seem to be coming from a fresh, independent resource that isn’t trying to sell me something 24/7.
    I work for a nonprofit/think tank that focuses on state policy issues. We can’t really use photos, stories, etc. of families, since we help bring about the policies that improve their lives, not necessarily them directly. I see no issue with indirectly using a story of Individuals to promote our impact, but the ED says this is a no go.
    Any suggestions for organizations that can’t just use a pic of a cute kid to get people caring? Many thanks.

  2. Mcmullek Avatar

    1st time commenting although I am a frequent lurker of this blog. Great tips and, for what it’s worth, they seem to be coming from a fresh, independent resource that isn’t trying to sell me something 24/7.
    I work for a nonprofit/think tank that focuses on state policy issues. We can’t really use photos, stories, etc. of families, since we help bring about the policies that improve their lives, not necessarily them directly. I see no issue with indirectly using a story of Individuals to promote our impact, but the ED says this is a no go.
    Any suggestions for organizations that can’t just use a pic of a cute kid to get people caring? Many thanks.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.