Designing Newsletters With Your Donor in Mind

Brian Sun

For five days (from January 5-9) Staffhacker contributor Brian Sun is going to tell you why he uses Mailchimp (and why you should too), show you how to write your first email, and give you tips on how to write effective newsletters and get more subscribers.

I’m on the email list for an unnamed parachurch ministry who I never gave permission to send me updates in the first place. And their newsletters contain about 10-15 different articles, 25 prayer requests, and minimal pictures. Let’s just say I delete them after about two seconds of scanning. Even if I wanted to stay updated about their ministry, there is no way I’m going to read 10-15 different articles or pray through 25 prayer requests about things happening in their ministry that I know nothing about.

One time, I was at a donor’s house for dinner and they told me that they “actually read my newsletters” and that the updates I sent were their favorites out of all the missionaries they support–because they are to-the-point, filled with pictures, and honor people’s time. These were adults, not twentysomethings with iPhones. After their feedback, I realized I might be onto something.

With that, here’s a process for how you can design newsletters with your donor in mind:

Ask good questions

First, you have to ask really good questions. What do I want them to know? What do they want to know? How much do they want to know? How can I share these things with them?

Here’s an example:

  • What do I want them to know?
    I want them to know that things are actually happening on campus–that students are being mentored, prayers are being prayed, people are being witnessed to.
  • What do they want to know?
    They want to know that I’m consistent and that the money they’re giving is actually making a difference because I’m engaged in ministry on campus.
  • How much do they want to know?
    There are two tiers. Some people want to know just enough to say “oh, this missionary I’m supporting is engaged in ministry on campus this month” and others want details.
  • How can I share these things with them?
    In my newsletters, I can share a summary for the people who want to know a little bit and then I can link to my blog that contains all the juicy details. I can put lots of pictures for the scanners who don’t want to read anything.

Define your system

Second, define your system. Okay, so if we take the answers from the example above, their system is to:

  1. Write a detailed post on their blog.
  2. Share a summary in their newsletters.
  3. Link to the details on their blog for interested readers.
  4. Put lots of pictures to engage the scanners.

Here’s an example.

Implement your system

Third, implement the system. This process means nothing unless you do it. So go for it.

And remember, what it comes down to is you are not designing your newsletters for you, you’re designing your newsletters for your donors. Doing one over the other makes all the difference of whether your newsletters actually get read.

By Brian Sun | Posted: Jan 08, 2011
Category: Email/Communications | Tags: | Permalink | Post a comment | Trackback URL.

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