Newsletter Success

This is a static image of a newsletter I designed, wrote and printed a few years ago using a Microsoft Publisher template. The project discussed has changed since then, but the newsletter design is very attractive in both printed and pdf formats.

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.

When done well, printed newsletters like this convey a professional image for your nonprofit organization. Being only four pages – one large sheet printed on glossy paper for instance and then folded in half (and folded down further for mailing) – printed newsletters do not burden readers with excessive information. Instead, they allow recipients to glean the salient aspects of your organization’s work, accomplishments and goals. They are also attractive when set out on a coffee table, for instance, and can help establish a sophisticated tone for your organization.

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. It is an attractive item one can leave behind with colleagues who might be potential supporters for a major gift campaign, for instance. Newsletters along these lines can 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 the case. It is my understanding you must acquire Microsoft Publisher in order to access them. Depending upon your office budget, the cost may not be prohibitive, and monthly subscriptions are an option. You might enjoy reading Molly K. McLaughlin’s article for PCWorld, “The Best Email Marketing Software for 2020.”

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 using Microsoft Word (a doc). It was a four-page newsletter and turned out beautifully.

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. Create a new Word document (with uniform, narrow margins), type in a “title” and related overarching information at the top, space down, then underneath, insert your text. Then format that text portion 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 “digital” 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 link above, 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 suite of campaign documentation.

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 that a colleague 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!

And although so much communication and documentation is handled digitally today, I would argue the importance of hard copy has only increased, especially for those prospective donors reviewing options for funding nonprofit projects in a substantial way. It is similar to hand written thank you notes. They are so rare today that when received, they assume even greater importance.

Additional Resources

  • 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, let me know.
  • Kivi Leroux Miller has written a very 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.” 
  • 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.” 
  • 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.”

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