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Friday, January 19, 2018

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What does qualify as front page news in your donor newsletter?
Tom Ahern

October, 2009

Sometimes your top news is an ask. Most of the time it isn't.

Tobey emailed a question I think a lot of fundraisers wonder about: When prompting donations through our quarterly print newsletter, where should I place the actual appeal or "ask" versus the news?

My reply: If the appeal itself is special and important, then you should blast it across your front page. If the appeal is routine, it is not worthy of front-page treatment. It goes inside or on the back.

So, what's special and important?

A new (and "new" is the operative word) matching campaign qualifies as special and important. Trumpet that news on your front page.

Your loyal donors, the ones who send several gifts a year, will welcome a matching campaign as an opportunity to multiply their impact without spending a nickel more.

Some of your loving but negligent donors will be stirred to act thanks to the tiny kick in the conscience that a matching campaign delivers.

Emphasize a deadline. Deadlines spark a sense of urgency. Urgency helps people overcome their innate inertia, fundraising's most dangerous and tenacious foe.

If the deadline is pretty distant, run a follow-up story on the campaign's progress in every subsequent issue, until the campaign closes.

Asking for special funds

If you urgently need funding for a good program that's in danger of being cut, tie an ask into a front-page story about the program's success and its impending doom.

A Boys & Girls Club I know, for instance, raised a goodly sum when it ran a front-page story in its donor newsletter about how the Club's after-school tutoring program was turning C's into B's on local report cards ... while at the same time pointing out that the Club could no longer afford to fund the program unless donors stepped in to save it.

Repeat after me: Donors love to save worthy things.

The purpose of a donor newsletter is to report on all you've accomplished thanks to charitable gifts.

The typical front-page story in a donor newsletter is about someone helped: a life changed, a life turned around, a life saved. Then credit for that wonderful outcome is given to the donors. (It's shocking how many charity newsletters forget that key, revenue-enhancing, step.)

A direct mail appeal is a "hard ask"; its purpose is exclusively to raise funds. Your newsletter is more of a "soft ask." Still, the ask must be made.

I recommend running in every issue some kind of ad on one or more inside pages, bearing a message such as, "If you'd like to help orphaned infants find loving homes right now, you can make your life-altering gift online or send it, with our deep thanks, inside the postage-free envelope provided with this newsletter."

Or maybe just cut to the chase:
Your help is needed!
Please give again today.

>>> Takeaway >>> Reserve your front page for the most important news you have to tell donors. A shocking number of charities don't obey this rule. Probably half the charity newsletters I see surrender their front page to some version of the venerable (and highly mockable) "letter from the executive director." These letters are almost always excitement killers; they exude "boring gas," a deadly sin in all communications. Among the 500+ donor newsletters I've reviewed, I've encountered just once a "letter from the ED" so captivating it was truly worthy of the front page.

Tom Ahern is just plain great! I could go on and on but - all you have to do is go to his website and see for yourself -  


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