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Friday, January 19, 2018

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Never run out of newsletter story ideas again: The front 9 (Part 1 of 2)
Tom Ahern

September, 2007

1. Program stories

Pick a program, any program. What has it accomplished lately? Is it growing, shrinking, updating, changing in any way? Do you have handy an anecdote that reveals how successful the program has been or can be? If it's a new program, what made you think it was worth doing in the first place? What are your hopes for the program? Talk about why the program MATTERS, not so much about how it works.

2. Tips

As specialists in your field, you have a unique body of knowledge. Some of it might be helpful to others. "The 10 Warning Signs of Childhood Depression." "A Dozen Things You Can Do Today That Will Save the Environment Tomorrow." "Is a Charitable Remainder Trust Right For You? A Checklist From an Expert."

3. Previews and reports

What's ahead? What are the latest findings from the authorities? "Looking at Next Year: Where We See Healthcare Headed." "New Urbanists Meet to Plan City of the Future: Will You Want to Live There?"

4. Client case histories

Show how your programs have changed individual lives for the better. And don't go all "happy face." Include conflict, tension, doubt, and obstacles, as well as triumph: it makes far more interesting reading.

5. "Staff are people, too" stories

What are the people on the front lines really like? Do their personal histories reinforce the credibility of your organization? "New Director of Projects Learned Her Business Building Bridges in Southeast Asian Jungles."

6. Milestones

"How 46 Donors Celebrated Our 20th Anniversary: Making $20,000 Gifts in Their Wills." "What We've Accomplished (Thanks to You, Our Donors) In the Last Five Years: A Timeline."

7. Research and development

What's coming down your pipeline? The world is ever changing: What programs are you planning to meet new demands?

8. Publications

What do you have to offer? Guides, brochures, checklists, white papers, reports, talking points, PowerPoint presentations, downloadable PDF files readable by Adobe Acrobat, an e-newsletter, information on your website: anything a donor, prospect, or client might consider useful is potential news.

9. How-to pieces

What do you know how to do that a reader might be interested in? "Listing Your Historic Home on the National Register: Easy To Do, If You Do It Right." "How to Lose 20 Pounds in Two Months the Safe and Sane Way, Without Feeling Hunger Pangs."

NEXT WEEK: Even more donor newsletter story ideas, the "back nine."

Due credit and thanks: the preceding checklist is partially based on one created by Robert W. Bly in his Advertising Manager's Handbook.

Tom Ahern is recognized as one of North America’s top authorities on nonprofit and donor communications. His "Love Thy Reader" workshops win rave reviews at fundraising conferences across the U.S. and Canada. Tom's workshops have trained thousands of nonprofit staff and board in the revenue-building secrets of psychology, marketing, writing, and graphic design. In 2005 he joined other world-class experts as a faculty member for the IFC's weeklong conference in the Netherlands, attended by fundraisers from 80 countries. He is the author of The Mercifully Brief, Real World Guide to Raising More Money with Newsletters Than You Ever Thought Possible, released in October 2005 by Emerson & Church. A second book titled How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money. John Wiley & Sons, the premier publisher of books for the nonprofit industry, in January 2006 contracted with Tom (and his wife, consultant Simone Joyaux) to produce a new book with the working title, Nonprofit Fundraising Communications: A Practical and Profitable Approach. Tom is also an award-winning magazine journalist, for articles on health, women's rights and other social justice issues. Visit


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