Newsletters are a commonly accepted way for nonprofit organizations to communicate essential information with key audiences, including donors and prospective donors. I find well-designed, four-page newsletters printed on attractive paper (pleasant to the touch), are classy items to mail to campaign insiders, donors and potential donors during major gift campaigns.
When done well, these newsletters convey an overall professional image for your organization. Being only four pages long, newsletters do not burden readers with too much information, but instead allow recipients to glean the salient aspects of your organization’s work, accomplishments, and goals.
I have had some of the most influential donors in Texas report they like this specific format because it is easy to carry while traveling to business meetings and while taking other trips (along with other documents). It is an attractive document one can share with colleagues who might be potential supporters for a major gift campaign. Newsletters along these lines also provide a “snapshot” of where an organization stands to date with its development activities.
My personal goal is to increase the efficiency of my work, and the cost-savings of nonprofits with which I work. Toward this end, I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated the availability of attractive newsletter templates from Microsoft Office.
Important update! One used to be able to download a variety of attractive Microsoft newsletter templates free of charge, but sadly, this is no longer possible. It is my understanding you must acquire Microsoft Publisher in order to access them today. Depending upon your office budget, the cost may not be prohibitive and monthly subscriptions are an option. You might also enjoy reading MakeUseOf’s article, “7+ Free Responsive Email Newsletter Templates Your Readers Will Love” (April 21, 2016).
Yes, like anything else, one must take time to learn how to use newsletter templates, but once you accomplish that objective, I think you will become “hooked.” On a personal “hacking” note, I have created newsletters using basic Microsoft Word. Simply create a new Word document (with narrow margins), type in a “title” and related overarching information at the top, space down, then underneath, insert your text. Then format that text into three columns. Insert photos as you please. Don’t forget to include your organization’s physical mailing address and both the written-out website and email contact addresses.
The first two newsletter links I share below were created with the help of Microsoft Office templates. They were both posted as pdf files online for public download, and printed by a print shop on glossy paper for physical distribution. The third newsletter was created with iContact. I have also done extensive newsletter work with MailChimp.
- The Daughters of The Republic of Texas (Austin)
- Episcopal Diocese of West Texas (San Antonio)
- TEXSAR Update (Austin)
In the case of the first newsletter example, I was also able to convert the original template into three tandem documents: 1) a two-fold brochure for general information and solicitation purposes; 2) a two-page special project overview for a separate mailing; and 3) a pledge card. By using the same template, the color schemes, fonts, and general layouts remained the same. This ultimately created an attractive package of campaign documentation for the nonprofit.
Whatever you do, always remember that regular, professional communications with your constituents make a tremendous difference to the long term success of your work. I have found more than most things, being kept on the “inside track” in written form – printed and via email – binds supporters to your organization. And that is exactly what is required to raise charitable donations large and small.
- My article focuses on formal newsletters that are “printable” or that can be made into pdf files and attached to your website, e-mailed, and uploaded to SlideShare for instance. I admit, I prefer this kind of newsletter for more significant campaign communications. E-newsletters are another way of creating and sharing news online. You might enjoy, “Email Marketing Services Review: 2016 Best“ from Top Ten Reviews. There are some surprises in there! I have worked with iContact, Constant Contact and MailChimp and have found them both to be excellent systems.
- I write my own newsletters, case statements and grant proposals, simultaneously while developing the graphic “identity” of each. But that comes from years of experience and two university degrees! If you need assistance with writing specifically, there are several experts who can help you produce better copy for nonprofit fundraising purposes. One is Tom Ahern. Tom is especially adept at nonprofit newsletter writing.
- Tom Ahern posted for Bloomerang, “Follow The Domain Formula for Donor Newsletters” (n.d.).
- Pamela Grow has written a helpful article, “Nonprofit Newsletters – Are You Making These Mistakes?” (2009).
- Kivi Leroux Miller has written a helpful article, “Give Your Newsletters a Reason to Live” (September, 2012). “Newsletters can consume huge amounts of time and money, and if you don’t know why you are producing the thing — really know why — then you are probably throwing that time and money into a bottomless pit.”
- Check out Kivi Leroux Miller’s free e-course, “15 Days to More Engaging, Inspiring E-newsletters.” The “on demand” course is described on Kivi’s helpful website, Nonprofit Marketing Guide.
- Katya Andresen of Network For Good has posted a helpful article, “7 Ways to Get Better Response Rates to Your eNewsletter” (April 10, 2012). “Want to increase donations through your email outreach? You need to give people a compelling reason to open your message and then act. Fortunately there are several things you can easily do to improve your odds.” Here is another helpful article by Katya, “3 Tips for Improving Nonprofit Newsletters” (February, 2013).
- Nonprofit Tech for Good, “10 E-newsletter Best Practices for Nonprofits” (September, 2014).
- Marlene Oliveira has written for Nonprofit MarCommunity, “How to Develop Effective Nonprofit Newsletters: 6 Steps” (April, 2013).
- A friend who works with Constant Contact referred me to an article by David Wilson, The Age (Australia), in the small business section, “Get Your Newsletter Read: 10 Hot Tips.” (2012). It provides excellent advice!