Donor centered newsletters Part One

A few days ago, Susan Rudd from the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington in Indiana emailed me and asked: “Do you have any suggestions on how to make our newsletter more donor-centered?” I promised her that I’d think about it and blog about it this week. So, I immediately cracked open my copy of Penelope Burk’s book “Donor Centered Fundraising” and started researching. As you can imagine, there are lots and lots of data points (based on Penelope’s survey data), and I’ve decided to break my response into two separate blog posts.

Today’s blog post focuses on the case for changing your non-profit’s newsletter. Monday’s post will look at specific ideas on how to change this critically important donor communication tool. I again want to thank Penelope Burk for her groundbreaking research and reiterate that none of what I am about to share with you are my original thoughts or work. Please go out and purchase a copy of “Donor Centered Fundraising” … it will change your life!

The following is a quick summary of survey data on the current state of affairs regarding non-profit newsletters (please note that these results are based upon “survey respondents” and hopefully I don’t need to go into any detail with you about the limitations of survey research):

  • 66% of donors reported that “they don’t have time to read newsletters thoroughly”.
  • 58% of donors said they believe non-profit newsletters are “too long”.
  • The average newsletter dedicates 52% of space to programs/services and 24% of space to fundraising.
  • 99% of non-profits participating in the study produced printed newsletters and 22% also produced an e-newsletter.
  • Only 19% of donors reported that they were “satisfied” with the current length of the newsletters they receive.
  • Only one-third of donors said newsletter content is “exciting and compelling” with approximately the same number of respondents reporting that there is “too much fundraising content”.
  • 54% of donors feel that newsletters can be improved if “more targeted information on how donations are being used” was included.
  • 53% of donors said they are “concerned about the cost of newsletters”.

There can be no doubt after reviewing this research that there is but one conclusion — something must change if non-profits want to make the transition to a new donor-centered paradigm of resource development.

So, this is where I will leave the “cliff hanger” and ask that you take time this weekend to ponder the case for change. While digesting the facts, please ask yourself the following questions … How do my donors feel about our newsletter? Have I asked donors how they’d improve it?  What have I heard? If I haven’t asked, what is stopping me from doing so? How much of our content is focused on programmatic ROI versus fundraising? How “stale” is the newsletter content by the time donors receive it in their mailbox? If you get a chance, please share some of your observations in the comment box of this blog.

Stay tuned for part two of this series when I share some possible solutions with you on Monday.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on July 8, 2011, in Donor-centered fundraising and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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