What’s In My Mailbox | Taking a Donor Newsletter One Step Further

August 11, 2022

It might surprise you to learn that of the most overlooked opportunities in nonprofit fundraising is the lowly print newsletter.

Your donor newsletter provides the opportunity to steward, and show your donors the kind of impact their gifts are making. And, when done according to the simple, yet specific formula covered in Simple Development Systems, your newsletter can also provide a significant source of revenue.

That’s why I was so delighted when The Backer Bulletin landed in my mailbox. This newsletter, from The Coalition for Children, Youth, and Families,  is a prime example of a donor-focused newsletter. The coalition, is a Wisconsin nonprofit “Supporting Individuals, Families, And Professionals Touched By Foster Care, Kinship, And Adoption, Equipping Them With The Tools And Resources They Need To Promote Family Resilience And Stability.”

The newsletter features a lot to like. You’ll find plenty of references to “generous supporters like you” and what the donor’s support is making possible.

Let’s see where our biggest opportunities are for The Backer Bulletin to get the biggest bang for our efforts.

Communications Director Jenna Czaplewski has developed a thoughtful donor newsletter filled with gratitude for The Coalition’s supporters. And she generously responded to a few questions I had about the newsletter.

Q. Was there a BRB return envelope inside? I didn’t see one.

“No, we don’t include a direct ask or reply envelope with this newsletter.”

The Backer Bulletin was mailed in an envelope, which is a good thing. While self-mailer newsletters are cheaper to mail, they also tend to be perceived as trash by the recipient.

But not including a reply envelope is an obstacle to giving. It gives donors a reason to not donate now. A reply envelope is just paper and doesn’t change your cost significantly. The return envelope pays for itself in just a few added donations. The print newsletter model we teach does include a reply envelope and clients and students have seen significant revenue. You might consider including an envelope and a soft ask such as this:

Q. Who does this newsletter go to? Donors only, a combo?

“Primarily donors who have given within the past three years.”

Excellent! Consider as well that this would be a terrific opportunity to further engage your donors by segmenting your data and including personal letters or handwritten notes along with the newsletter. For instance, your monthly supporters would receive an extra-special thank you. Major donors as well.

Q. How frequently do you mail?

“We sent the Backer Bulletin out quarterly.”

According to Penelope Burk’s research, quarterly is ideal. Many of our students send their print newsletter 6 to 8 times a year and some organizations send print donor newsletters monthly.

Q. Do you also have an email version?

“We do! We create an email based on the print version and send it out to our donor email list.”

Good job! We know that multichannel donors have a 56% higher retention rate than offline only. Multichannel has more revenue, and what’s more, simply adding email communication increases your donors’ value by 90% (source: NextAfter).

Q. Do you typically see donations from your newsletter?

“Not often, no. In general, we use this as an update on what their past contributions have done, how they have made a difference, etc.”

With some thoughtful tweaking, of headlines (see the Child Bridge newsletter here), including a reply envelope, more storytelling, and subtle calls to action, The Backer Bulletin could become a significant source of revenue.

Download The Backer Bulletin below. Thanks to the Coalition and Jenna Czaplewski for sharing.

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