What’s wrong with this donor newsletter?

Let me show you what’s in a nonprofit newsletter I just got. I’ve changed the name of the organization to “Springfield Legal Aid” to disguise its identity, but here are the headlines of the articles in the newsletter that was sent to donors:

  • SLA opens full-time office in eastern Hooper County
  • SLA Managing Attorney Jane Doe pens guest column in honor of Independence Day
  • SLA hosts free estate planning clinic for renters
  • Senior Paralegal Joan Roe receives Award for her work on behalf of renters
  • Law student John Moe awarded fellowship to work with SLA in Springfield
  • Current Job Opportunities
  • Pro Bono Opportunities

What’s missing from this newsletter?

The donor!

This newsletter, like so many produced by nonprofits, is one big brag-sheet. See how awesome and busy we are!

Some of these articles could be positioned to be about donors. (Trust me, they aren’t.) For example, the article about the new office being opened could an article about how, thanks to the wonderful donors, they are now able to expand their worked into eastern Hooper County, a remote and under-served area. The guest column could be about the amazing ways the donors help keep the values of American Independence alive and well in their community.

But neither of those things are happening.

And articles about staff members winning awards … very hard to make that about donors.

It’s not that the material is unimportant. It’s just aimed at the wrong people. This newsletter is an internal staff newsletter, recognizing the work of colleagues and important initiatives of the organization. But it’s being sent to donors. It’s largely irrelevant to them.

Take a look at your newsletter.

Ask yourself: Who is this information for?

If you aren’t talking to donors about how their giving makes a difference, don’t send that to donors!


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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.

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