Here’s an amazing solution for languishing nonprofit e-newsletters

It’s been a puzzle ever since email became a viable way to communicate with donors: There’s something wrong with e-newsletters.

Usually the lowest open rates of email types. All the other numbers low too.

Which is odd, because print newsletters do very, very well for most who do them right — that is, make them relevant to their donors.

But, in my experience, when you port them over to email — and I’ve tried every which way of doing it — the magic is gone!

But here’s a possible solution, from the Better Fundraising Blog, at How to Increase Your Email Open Rate by 58%.

Yes, you read that right: A different way to handle email newsletters that has boosted open rate from 24% to 38%.

It’s called an “e-story,” and the main difference from an newsletter is that it tells one “before and after” story. No formatting, no header image, no photo, no links to social. It’s a message from your ED or president that looks like she typed it herself.

Here’s the outline for an e-story:

  • Warm, personal greeting
  • Directly tell the donor that you are going to tell them a story that’s a good example of how their gift made a difference
  • Tell a “before and after” story from your organization’s work
  • Reaffirm to the donor that they helped make that ‘before and after’ happen
  • Let the donor know that they can give again if they’d like to
  • Thank the donor for their generosity

The results, at least for the organization that has done it: Much higher open rate, leading to higher response rate — that is, a lot more revenue. Response rate leads to stronger retention, so over the course of a year of sending them, you are likely to see an uptick in that critical measurement.

Try it. See if it works for you.

(And if you’re already measurably succeeding with your email newsletter, let me know. You might have found another solution to the strange puzzle of e-newsletters.)


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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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