If your organization sends a print newsletter, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that the publication is working as effectively as possible. While most of the following tips are fundamental, I believe that even experienced advancement professionals will find at least a couple of useful ideas:
Identify your objectives. It is essential that you know what you want your newsletter to accomplish. Is the purpose to generally inform readers about the organization? Is it to recognize donors? Is it to promote planned giving? Once you determine your objectives, you’ll be better able to prepare appropriate content and build a proper mailing list. Don’t just produce a newsletter to have a newsletter. Know why you want one.
Appropriately brand your newsletter. Make sure your newsletter branding is in alignment with your overall organizational branding. For example, your general advancement newsletter will look different than your planned giving newsletter, but both should use your organization’s colors and carry the organization logo.
Mail at least three times per year. As with most marketing communications, frequency is important. For a newsletter to have impact, one needs to be sent at least three times per year. Mailing only once or twice will simply ensure that readers forget about the publication, and possibly the organization, between issues. With each additional newsletter readers receive, the overall impression will grow, just be sure not to over-saturate your market. Some readers might ignore one issue but, overtime, they will likely not ignore all issues. Mailing at least three times per year will ensure that you grab the attention of busy readers and remain in front of them throughout the year.
Consistently maintain a production schedule. Develop a communications plan and then stick to it. Make sure that readers do not receive a slew of communications from your organization in one week and then hear nothing more for a couple of months. Instead, coordinate your various communications to ensure a consistent presence. Once you’ve developed the communications plan, stick to it. Readers will grow accustomed to receiving your newsletter at particular times. If you miss a date, they might think that you dropped them from the list, the newsletter got lost in the mail, or that your organization is having serious budget trouble.
Mail to as many prospects and donors as the budget permits. Determining how many newsletters to send will involve an analysis of your target markets and the objectives of your newsletter. For example, a general advancement newsletter might be sent to all donors and certain prospects to inform them of your organization’s accomplishments. On the other hand, a planned giving newsletter might be sent only to frequent annual donors age 55 and older to inform them of the impact that planned gifts have on the organization and how such gifts can benefit the donor and his loved ones.
Make sure the newsletter is designed for older eyes. People over 40 years of age are not going to want to read eight point type. If someone has to reach for her reading glasses to see what’s in your newsletter, there’s a good chance she won’t. So, make sure to use a large font size such as 12 point. Also, avoid using reverse type (white letters on a dark background); reverse type is difficult to read and not easy to photocopy or fax clearly. Also, avoid low contrast situations; the darker the type and the lighter the background, the better. While sans-serif fonts such as Arial might look cleaner and prettier than a serif font such as Time New Roman with its little “feet,” the reality is that serif fonts are easier to read.