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The layers that make a donor newsletter "delicious" 🎂

Published 22 days ago • 4 min read

Welcome, You! This is the 127th Fundraising Writing Newsletter. If you find value here, please tell a colleague. (Your colleague can ​subscribe here for free.)

In this issue:

The layers that make a direct mail donor newsletter "delicious" 🎂

Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Hi Reader,

"Can you please make your famous dessert for my birthday?" my 20-year-old son asked.

Mickey has requested this particular dessert for many birthdays. It's irresistible, having layers of classic kid-loving sweet-treat ingredients.

Layer 1: nutty, crispy crust = yum 😋
Layer 2: dreamy sugar pillow of sweet cream = yum 😋
Layer 3: the pudding-tastic part = yum 😋
Layer 4: super fluffy cloud w/ cookie crumbles = yum 😋

Each layer alone is delicious... but together... they're MAGICAL.✨

Mickey's not just asking for whipped cream or pudding or cookies — he's craving the magical blend these layers create. It's this perfect harmony that makes the dessert a cherished tradition — even on his 20th birthday!

Quick aside:

If you've gotta have it, here's the recipe:

And here's a photo I took of Mickey a couple of days ago with his birthday dessert. 🤣

Donor newsletters are like this: they're a sweet treat for your supporters. Each little "layer" is valuable alone... but when you put them together, the piece becomes magical for your donors and your fundraising.

So let's talk about...


The layers that make a direct mail donor newsletter "delicious" 🎂

First, be aware that your newsletters should be part of the donor communications cycle of Ask, Thank, Report.

Asking = your appeals.

Thanking = your thank-you letters.

Reporting = your impact reports, impact stories shared via email and social media, and direct mail donor newsletters.

Is Donor-Centricity Still a Thing?

Yes. It’s related to the adage: “Know your audience.” Just as you should talk to your child using child-centered language, to your friend using friend-centered language, and to your mom using mom-centered language, you should talk to your donors using donor-centered (donor-relevant) language.

This is not simply about using the word “you” often (although that’s a good start!). Your goal should be to write so that your donors see themselves as important in your organization’s story and feel the impact they’ve helped make possible.

Do You Need a Cover Letter?

Cover letters are optional, but they're a good place for variable messages to different segments and additional info you may be under pressure to include but does not fit well in the newsletter.

Keep your cover letters concise — either one or two sides of a single sheet of paper.

Headlines and Subheads

Your headlines should be visually bold, specific, and donor-centered. Your subheads should help your headlines by "commenting" on them, so that your donors can immediately connect to the gist of the story. For example,

● Headline: “How Ms. Connie Went from U-Haul to Shelter to Permanent Housing”

● Subhead: “Your Love Is Helping to Restore Seniors’ Safety, Health, and Dignity.”

Stories of Impact

Stories of impact are the “bread and butter” of a newsletter. You’ll probably want to include at least two of these. For each, first remind the reader of the story of need, then follow with the impact the donor's support made possible. (Both the problem and the solution.)

Stories of Social Proof

These are special impact stories featuring donors and volunteers. They often motivate others to try to be like them.

Calls to Action

After you’ve included multiple stories of impact, we recommend you include a current story of need — usually on the last page — and then ask the donor to take action, such as making a gift or becoming a monthly donor.

Layout & Design:

For good readability, write your newsletter using columns and ensure ample white space. Add interest with the occasional pull-quote.

Prioritize images that feature people or animals. Closeups of faces that make eye contact are best. Be sure your images support the story. Nothing in them should distract from the message and tone.

Where possible, include captions. People gravitate to them. Write captions such that they identify who or what is in the picture, provide any necessary context, and note the donor’s impact.

For example,

● “Angela received life-saving oxygen at Nkhoma Hospital in Malawi. Thank you for being there for Angela and her mother."

Hot Tip for Layout & Design:

Consider reviewing magazines (especially good: magazines for kids) to get ideas for layout and design. For example, you may wish to use a certain color for headlines and another for subheads throughout your newsletter.

Reply Form with Envelope

Make sure you provide an opportunity for your donors to give again! Some of them will be ready to donate immediately.

Outer Envelope

Use one! Newsletters mailed in outer envelopes almost always raise more money than self-mailers with no envelope. To maximize your open rate, include envelope teaser copy such as: “Inside: Your Spring Newsletter!” — preferably alongside an image of the cover page of the newsletter.

***

Just like the perfect layers in a dessert make it irresistible, each element of your donor newsletter — from stories of impact to calls to action — plays a vital role alone.

But together, they create a compelling narrative that deepens donor engagement and drives your fundraising forward! 💛


Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

For your brain, heart, and funny bone...

  • Fundraisingly Informative 2x, 3x, 5x, Matchx by Ephraim Gopin (a 5-minute video from his popular The Weekly SEND newsletter showcasing how the American Lung Association effectively tells people about a matching gift campaign)
  • Hopelessly Clueless Ever felt like people don't get fundraising? by Michelle Benson (a LinkedIn post you might relate to if someone who doesn't know the first thing about fundraising tells you how to fundraise!)
  • Routinely Sticky Print newsletters unique 'sticky' quality by Pamela Grow (via the latest issue of The Grow Report highlighting that print newsletters create something email newsletters struggle to replicate; scroll down past Pam's granddog Wally)

Until next time: May every layer of your donor newsletter build stronger bonds with your donors!

Grateful,

Subscribe to the Fundraising Writing Newsletter

Hi! We're Julie Cooper and Brett Cooper, fundraising copywriters for great causes. Does your fundraising bring in as much money as it could? You can send donor communications that stir hearts to action. We'd love to help. 💛 Start by subscribing to our FREE weekly newsletter.

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