Raising More Money with Newsletters – The Secrets to Success

Date Published
Debbie Merlino

Despite the popularity – and importance – of digital communications, printed newsletters are still one of the hardest working and most effective techniques for promoting your mission, renewing and upgrading donors, and increasing donor engagement. In fact, in a national survey almost three-quarters of all donors claimed that receiving a regular Newsletter would increase their focus upon and interest in an organization.

Over the past nine years, we’ve helped more than 20 nonprofit organizations turn expensive marketing communications that were inward-focused into donor-centric, revenue-generating powerhouses that regularly yield a 2-to-1 return on investment.

Now we’re letting you in on the Secrets to Success

Secret #1: The Packaging
Newsletters that are self-mailers have low perceived value. Time and time again, we’ve found the secret is partly in how the Newsletter is packaged:

  • 11” x 17” folded to four 8 ½” x 11” pages
  • 2- or 4-color printing
  • Mailed in a #10 window envelope with an engaging teaser
  • Include a personalized reply slip and reply envelope

Secret #2: The Content
Too often we see Donor Newsletters that are, frankly, boring, containing no actual news but lots of pictures from the recent big gala or check presentation. Poor headlines, densely written articles that lack emotion, stats instead of story-telling – all conspire to turn your Newsletter into a dud.

  • Instead keep the copy short, punchy, and skimmable. Focus on what donors want to read about. Share with them what you did with their last gift. Let them know how they’ve made an impact. Restate your case for giving. What more could you accomplish if you had additional funding? Pull back the curtain; give readers an inside look at your organization.
  • Include a letter from the President (or Executive Director) along with his/her photo on the inside left page. Think of this as a boiled-down appeal letter. What’s the reason for making a gift today?

Secret #3: The Details
Once you’ve nailed the packaging and the content, don’t neglect these final details. 

  • The importance of thoughtful audience segmentation can’t be overstated. Are you mailing too deeply? Not deep enough? Uniquely code each audience segment and make adjustments based on results.
  • Ask for a specific dollar amount based on the donor’s prior giving level. And make sure the reply slip includes all essential information: the name of your organization, logo, street address, phone number, and web address.
Debbie Merlino
About the Author:
Debbie Merlino
President, Agency Services

As President of Agency Services, Debbie is responsible for overall client satisfaction. She works to ensure AFG’s winning strategies are being shared throughout the organization for the benefit of all our clients. Debbie is frequently out on the road sharing insights with others and listening to your challenges so we can develop solutions.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I get to meet the best people and hear their stories. Hardly anyone says they planned to work in development. Learning how our clients found themselves in this profession and hearing the stories of the people they serve is inspirational.

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

Attempting the life of a freelance journalist, working in a bookstore, and/or doing a podcast for my own enjoyment.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Making people laugh. It’s thrilling! Especially when done purposefully and I’m on stage ; ) I also enjoy yoga and a well-crafted cocktail.

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