Winning donor newsletter formats [Newsletter Tuesday]

Newsletter Tuesdays: A series about doing more with your donor newsletter.

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I’ve done a lot of donor newsletters, and I’ve tested a lot of approaches. Here’s what I know…

Newsletter format musts

  • Mail your newsletter in envelope. Don’t make it a self-mailer. That may cost less, but a self mailer gets lower response. This is important, and supported by a lot of testing.
  • Include a reply device. Omitting a reply device will cut response in half.
  • Return envelope. A few extra cents, but don’t skip it!

Color?

It used to be that full color newsletters provoked donors to complain about “wasted money.” And it used to cost more too. Now, full color is rarely much more than one or two colors. And donors don’t seem to care as much. The amount of color’s impact on response is usually negligible.

How many pages?

Here’s a surprise: Big newsletters aren’t a great idea. Anything about four pages is not only an increased cost, but is likely to get lower response. That flies in the face of the rock-solid rule the longer letters in direct mail do better than short ones.

Here’s an even stranger surprise: A two page newsletter (one letter sized sheet printed on both sides) works just as well as a four-page newsletter. Sometimes even better. This is supported by repeated testing — we couldn’t believe it when we saw it! Plus it costs less, and is less work to create. That’s kind of a win-win-win.

An even easier newsletter format

Here’s how to make it even easier. Your newsletter doesn’t have to be a newsletter at all. It can just be a letter on letterhead. You still have to make it for and about donors, and tell great stories, but you can save yourself the time and trouble of standard newsletter design. Read more about this hear on the Moceanic Blog, at: The Not-Really-a-Newsletter Newsletter That Can Supercharge Your Donor Retention.

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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.