Nonetheless, we (Rory Green and John Lepp) are back with a new post to our Star Wars series!
The concept was simple. Let’s use a story that many, many people of all walks are familiar with and apply it to different types of fundraising communications. We have used it thus far to produce a direct mail package and a thank you letter (and have a few more ideas lined up just for you!).
We are all familiar and ‘plugged in’ to the story of our organization and cause but often come up short or aren’t quite sure how to express the good work that is made possible because of our loyal, passionate and caring donors – but we hope this series will help guide you in the development of your own fundraising (or maybe look at your current program differently).
So today, we want to share with you the first ever, Star Wars newsletter. Rory did an incredible job with the copy and we had the design and approach looked over and approved by Special Agent Tom Ahern. Thank you Tom for your suggestions, edits and time.
Are we ready?
A newsletter might well be more welcome than an appeal. It can bring joy. It can bring fun. It can take the reader on a journey (an Adrian Sargeant idea). It can flatter the reader shamelessly, in all sorts of ways (deeply recommended).
There is no ONE way to do a perfect newsletter but here is what we DO know.
First, it should gush gratitude and love to your donor – that their care and gifts made amazing things happen.
Second, it tells amazing and inspiring stories.
Third, there is a bit of a sweet spot around four pages, and should never, ever, EV-VER have crappy photos of people shaking hands with large, intimating cheques in their hands.
They (donor newsletters) should never be considered a money waster if they done properly (see my three points above or google Tom Ahern Donor Newsletters), yet more and more we are hearing and seeing charities that are deep-sixing them and only doing e-newsletters moving forward. As our friend Richard Radcliffe suggests, that is very stupid thinking…
So – let’s have a look, shall we?
First the outer envelope. We’ve opted to use a 9″ x 6″ white envelope with a first class stamp. It’s size, the use of visuals – and donor focused tagline will all help this envelope get opened. You could also consider using no image or tagline – the weight of the pack because of the enclosed newsletter – may also be intriguing enough to get it opened – but it could be worth testing the two approaches.
Second. The letter. In this case, we felt short and sweet was the way to go. It answers the question “why am I getting this?” (“to show you the impact of your gift”). Belief/value statements can create mental nods to your reader – reminds them about their own belief/values. Amazingly, Leia took the time to add some handwriting, underlining and a personal note! Any/all of these things will dramatically help your letter get read and increase the likelihood of a gift. Also – this is all possible electronically without your ED having to reach for her pen!
Third. The Newsletter. Four pages is the magic length. Rory’s husband described it as “delightfully corny” – which it is. It should be. But don’t take our word for it, Tom Ahern and Jeff Brooks agree that good fundraising copy is plain, corny and obvious.
Before you start to read it, here are some things you should AND should not do in your donor newsletter:
• Make the donor the hero
• Use simple easy to read language
• Make it conversational
• Trigger emotions
• Tell stories
• Have a call to action – a good story should inspire them to do more, and give them a specific action to take. Every single story has a specific call to action and gift amount –which is referenced again in the coupon. For the love of goodness – do NOT bury these asks. Bold them. Make them stand out.
• Keep the words small, your font big, and the language simple
• Use words like “you”, “your” and phrases like “because of you”
• Make sure it is skim-able – pay attention to your headlines, photo captions and bolded words. Ask yourself – what would happen if this was ALL the donor read? Do they follow newsletter best practices?
• Brag about your organization
• Talk about how old you are
• Use endless lists of statistics
• Use jargon
• Take all the credit for your mission work
• Use words like “us, we, The Rebel Alliance” and phrases like “Strategic plan, operational roll out, enhanced care, a special message from out CEO”
Your Gifts At Work In Dagobah
• Notice the headline is “Your Gift at Work In Dagobah” NOT “A Special Message From Luke Skywalker”
• The purpose of this story is to show Joan what her last gift did. It is a message right from Luke thanking Joan and emphasizing HER role in his training. It doesn’t brag about how great Luke is – because Joan is the hero of this story.
You helped Nysteria rebuild her home and her life
• There are hundreds of Alderan refugees – but the story of ONE is more compelling than any number, statistic or graph I could show you.
• Nysteria is one person, with a relatable experience.
• Appealing to the senses: the sound of her children sobbing – the sound of their giggles. Stories become more powerful when one of the five senses plays a role.
• Hope/Fear and Hapiness/Saddness are most powerful when paired together. This story pairs the happy story of Nysteria with the reminder that people just like her still need help – and that “It happened to me and it could happen to you.”
• A specific call to action (give) with a tangible outcome of a gift: “A gift today $1,500 credits will provide food and shelter for an Alderaan Refugee for one week.”
Secrets of the Rebel Alliance Revealed: Admiral Akbar finds New Weapon in War Against Empire
• Words like “secret” make the information new and exciting to your readers
• Using bullet lists breaks up the copy and shows impact of gift
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Legacy
• A story of a civic – your prime target for legacy giving
• Introduces two important and essential concepts in legacy giving:
– He’s taken care of his family but also wants to give to this cause
– Anyone can do this – you don’t have to be rich
• Again speaks about belief, meaning, values – things that resonate with the demographic you are speaking to
Also, let’s take a closer look at the design…
The fourth component, the reply device. Full size, large type, personalized, specific asks that all link back to the stories your donor just read, easy to fill out and a massive reminder to your donor and their value in meeting the needs of the cause they care so much about.
Finally, please, please, please include a business reply envelope (BRE) so your donor can easily return their response form and duggat while their heart and mind still swell with good feelings and knowing they have helped the empire to fight another day…
We hope you found this Donor Newsletter 101 helpful, inspirational and insightful. You can also download a zip file of all of the art right here >>> JEDI_Newsletter.
Until next time, may the force be with you, special agents! (Click here and feel free to blast over your intercom system at the office…)