Extreme Donor-Focused Newsletter Increases Revenue by 521%

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of newsletters from non-profit organizations.

Some simply report accomplishments. Others are nothing more than fundraising appeals, thinly disguised in newsletter clothing. Still, others are institutionally-focused pieces written for insiders.

One of the most effective types is the Extreme Donor-Focused Newsletter. It is aimed squarely at the donor. In fact, it is all ABOUT the donor.

This approach assumes donors give because they love to give and love to make a significant difference in the world. It combines reporting back about what the donors have accomplished, and offers them a clear opportunity to give again.

We recently had to opportunity to test this approach against an internally-produced newsletter at one ministry. This was one of those test situations you dream about: Head-to-head A-B panels set up for a statistically valid test and spread over 3 different newsletter mail slots.

The results were gratifying, with the Masterworks Extreme Donor-Focused Newsletter showing improvement across the board:

  • 419% lift in response
  • 19.5% lift in average gift
  • 521% lift in revenue

We follow some simple principles as we created those winning newsletters. You can put them into practice with your own.

10 Principles to Create the Extreme Donor-Focused Newsletter

  1. WRITE to the Donor, For the Donor, About the Donor: This is NOT objective, arms-length journalism. This is NOT the organization talking about itself to organization insiders. This is a warm conversation with the donor about the things he or she is most interested in.
  2. ENSURE a High “You” Quotient: The copy is written directly to the donor using the second-person singular. The most frequent word in the copy AND headlines should be “you.”
  3. TOUCH the Heart with Strong Emotion: The newsletter needs to stir the donor’s heart. Make the donor feel something! Tell stories of amazing accomplishments that the donor’s generosity helped make possible. Use vivid language with strong, active verbs and concrete nouns. Dramatic, emotional photos are worth their weight in gold.
  4. SURPRISE AND DELIGHT: This is a newsletter, so it needs to have something new in it. Tell the donor something fascinating that he or she does not already know. The initial reaction of the donor upon first glance should be a big smile because his or her giving has made something wonderful happen.
  5. APPRECIATE the Donor: One of the major themes of the newsletter needs to be how important the donor is. “Look at what you have accomplished! With your help we can do all this. Without your help we will not be able to do it.” Look for ways to use the words “Thank you!” over and over again. (This is not merely a report back about what the organization was able to accomplish. This is all about what the DONOR has accomplished through their generosity!)
  6. DESIGN for Readability: Remove all unnecessary barriers to readability and comprehension. Use a large, readable SERIF font for body copy. All body copy should pass the “dollar bill test.” (You should not be able to lay a dollar bill on any expanse of body copy without touching a headline, photo or subhead.) No large blocks of reversed out type. No busy backgrounds behind copy. Make the layout easier to scan with large photos, headlines, subheads and pull-quotes.
  7. MOTIVATE Another Gift: Donors love to give and you should not be ashamed to ask them to give again. While most of the newsletter space is devoted to thanks and appreciation, the newsletter needs to give the donor a way to repeat their charitable behavior. This means making a clearly stated offer that donors have supported in the past.
  8. MAKE it Convenient to Give: The newsletter should include a response device and a return envelope. If online giving is possible, the URL for the giving page should be clearly presented in case that is the donor’s preferred giving channel.
  9. APPEAL to the Most Basic Donor Benefit: Giving is joyful. This key message should be explicitly stated: “Nothing feels better than when you help. When you give to accomplish XYZ, your heart overflows with gladness!”
  10. REFRESH AND REENGAGE: By the time the donor is finished reading the newsletter, he or she should be energized and eager to do more.