Sunday, May 17, 2009

Newsletters Allow Noprofits Repeat Access to Donors and Volunteers...And More...

You may already think that you've fully tapped out all of the potential that a newsletter can do for your nonprofit. Perhaps you have! In case, though, you are looking for new ways to raise support, consider the following...

Nonprofit organizations are faced, today, with the question whether they should provide newsletters perhaps in a way they never have been, before. There is the question about whether or not it is prudent to print on paper anymore. Similarly, some organizations struggle with whether to create both a print edition of a given newsletter, or whether a newsletter should only be made available online to forgo printing and mailing costs.

There are ethical considerations such as whether or not the organization will allow advertising in their newsletter and if they will, is any type of advertiser allowed to advertise or should their be restrictions? For instance, some nonprofit boards of schools may be concerned with their students' health and decide against allowing soda makers, fast food makers, or other nutritionally questionable food makers' advertising. For more about this consideration read "Are There Really Grants Our Organization May Not (Want To) Take?"

Very simply put, these kinds of considerations (whether one option is better for your organization over the other) are only the decisions that a nonprofit's leadership can make because every organization is unique. One organization may have conducted a marketing study and determined that a newsletter in both a print and online edition will allow them to achieve their planned new donor campaign this coming year. Perhaps another nonprofit is so familiar with its constituency and supporters that it knows that most of them have daily access to the Internet, beyond any campus or work network constraints, and can regularly access a web-based newsletter online any time. It may make more sense for that organization, then, to end its print newsletter edition. My point, here, is do not make any drastic decisions (such as ending one version of a newsletter over another) without fully weighing all of the considerations. Can your nonprofit's supporters (volunteers, donors, community collaborators) or your agency's beneficiaries (clients, etc.) access the one (or both) version(s) of the newsletter that you currently provide? If they can, would any segment of these key stakeholders lose access to information about your organization's latest work and current goals if you removed one version of the newsletter? Would as yet untapped market that your organization wishes to access be able to get information about your organization easier if you provided both versions? If you answer 'yes' or 'no' to any of these questions - how do you know your answer is correct? Have you conducted a study? Have your constituents and clients been requesting something other than what your organization provides, today? Do not just make snap decisions from the hip. Give this kind of decision making some real substance to help your leaders make the best choice for the organization.

Keep in mind the following:
__ Newsletters do not have to be of any specific quality (e.g. ten printed pages on glossy high end paper in three colors). They do need, though, to be legible, relevant, well written, and of value to the recipients. Know who the recipients are, how each stakeholder that is a recipient connects with your agency and 'meet them there' (where they are, or what interests (connects) them to the organization) in each newsletter.

__ Creating both virtual (web based) and print newsletters takes having someone on staff or a consultant that has key skills and knows specific software and print requirements. If you do not currently offer a newsletter, but your organization is considering it, conduct a cost benefit analysis and gather current pricing for all services, steps, and needed supplies that are involved. Weigh those against the anticipated benefits (e.g. more donors, a more informed and connected community base, etc.).

__ In a newsletter your organization can acknowledge and thank recent donors, it can inform current donors (who receive the newsletters) what work is being planned out that they may want to give donations for, specifically, and it offers local businesses advertising or sponsorship options. Perhaps a local hardware store would love to advertise their new 'user friendly' line of tools to your elderly but active clientele? Similarly, besides letting community supporters know what work your organization is about to do, or what fundraisers they may attend or help with, you can list what specific office supplies, office equipment, or new and unused items your organization needs for itself or the beneficiaries of your nonprofit's work.

__ Volunteers can be informed, through a newsletter, what the organization's new volunteer needs are, thank the current volunteers, and help to recruit new volunteers by providing those who are considering volunteering with a succinct but clear 'snapshot' of what it is like to volunteer with your organization (perhaps through pictures of volunteers working at a recent event, or a 'meet this month's volunteer of the month' segment).

__ A newsletter is a terrific place to demonstrate community buy in and making sure that any companies who sponsor a fundraising event or volunteer their expertise or services are listed in the following newsletter isn't just good for their image in the community. It helps nonprofits demonstrate, particularly to major donors (e.g. grant donors), that the community very much believes in what the nonprofit is doing and financially supports it.

__ When your organization needs to recruit new talent such as new staff member or a new board member, a newsletter is an excellent way to get the word out to the people who are actively involved in one way, or another, with the organization.

__ In each newsletter always include a donation remittance envelope. Recipients should not be expected to give, after receiving a newsletter, but some may use it as a time indicator to give regularly. Others may give after being moved by a specific piece about the organization's beneficiaries and how lives are being improved.

__ Leftover newsletters are handy current 'brochures' or marketing materials that can be given to anyone who is considering becoming involved with the organization in any way (volunteer, donor, client, collaborator in the community, etc.). Include them, for instance, in staff or board recruitment packages.

__ A compiled notebook of each newsletter, over time, forms a tome of an organization's public-facing interaction and so, in this way, recent but past newsletters, are an excellent barometer for an organization to evaluate its own messaging and how it communicates with its community. Similarly, a nonprofit can try out new styles or messaging and compare these new features against the response the newsletter elicits in all of the different type of recipients (donors, clients, volunteers, etc.) and gauge which is more successful than others.

__ A newsletter is a regular way to put your organization's name and work in front of its supporters, donors, volunteers, etc. as often as your issue your newsletters. If you consider that most Americans do not like phone solicitations and that online fundraising, studies show, is not replacing traditional fundraising methods any time soon (such as appeal letters, face to face asks, donation remittance envelopes, etc.), then having a regular noninvasive way to access your organization's supporters is genius.

Some organizations also consider who should receive a newsletter and where is the line to decide who should and who shouldn't. That varies, again, from organization to organization. You must consider what the newsletter can raise in your current donors, your current volunteers, and potential new community collaborators or other stakeholders. Then, you must weigh this against how much it costs to create, fold, and mail one newsletter to one person. This kind of cost/benefit analysis can help your organization's executive director decide people who donate at a minimum of $10 a year or more can receive the newsletter for the year. Or, perhaps there is such a large number of recipients that the cost is so diluted that it is worth sending anyone who donates or volunteers with your organization a newsletter.

One of the best ways to keep your donors, volunteers, and other newsletter recipients happy is to have a certain way (that works) to be sure that those people who specifically request that they not receive a newsletter do not. You always want to work with the people who support your organization. Many donor/donation databases provide the option, for each donor or volunteer in the database, to include or cancel their inclusion in a mailing list for a newsletter. To understand better how to care for (or develop) donors read Your Nonprofit Needs Cash Flow. That Means Your Nonprofit Needs Its Individual Donors. Take Great Care of Each One

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