Newsletter Success

A newsletter designed by me using a Microsoft newsletter template, which was also modified for a matching brochure and pledge card.

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.

NOTE | One used to be able to download a variety of attractive Microsoft newsletter templates free of charge, but this is evidently 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). I also like the look of Canva newsletter templates.

I created this newsletter quite a few years ago, using simple Microsoft Word. It was a four-page newsletter and turned out beautifully once printed.
I created this newsletter quite a few years ago, using Microsoft Word (doc). It was a four-page newsletter and turned out beautifully when printed.

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 U.S. Postal Service and physical distribution. The third and fourth newsletters were created with iContact, and the final example with MailChimp.

In the case of the first newsletter example, I was also able to convert the original template into three tandem documents: 1) a matching two-fold brochure for general information and solicitation; 2) a two-page special project overview for a separate mailing; and 3) a matching 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.

A personal story: A few years ago, a donor mentioned to me that a colleague of his carried one of my “glossy” printed newsletters with him on his private plane. He reported that the simple but elegant one-sheet newsletter (folded down to create four pages of information), was easy to read, it did not include too much information, and it was easy to carry in his briefcase. Sometimes printing a newsletter is worth the effort.


  • 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, “The Best Email Marketing Services and Survey Software for 2018” from Business.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Caryn Stein 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 shared by Network For Good, “3 Tips for Improving Nonprofit Newsletters” (February, 2013).
  • Nonprofit Tech for Good, “10 E-newsletter Best Practices for Nonprofits” (September, 2014).

For another essential component of newsletter success, see my post, “Mailing Lists: God Is In The Details.”

One thought on “Newsletter Success

  1. Vickie Sokol Evans (@redcapeco) May 12, 2013 / 5:48 pm

    Carolyn, This is great! Thanks for taking the time to share how you leverage the free templates on to communicate with your fans. Saves time and money! And it look PHENOMENAL!! I shared this with my Microsoft friends at I hope it’s okay.


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