From Snoring to Soaring
Most nonprofit newsletters are boring. I subscribe to about 20 of them, and only one or two are interesting enough to regularly skim. Most are full of cookie-cutter human-interest stories that elicit little more than a yawn.
This got me thinking, is this sample representative? If so, yikes!
Newsletters are an important way that we cultivate relationships with donors. If we’re generally dull and needy in those communications, our audience will lose interest. And that ultimately spells financial heartbreak for us.
So what’s a nonprofit to do? How do we take our newsletters from snoring to soaring?
Looking for an easy answer to this question, I decided to punt. I picked up the phone and called an expert who focuses on this very problem. Why not let her do the work? And here’s what trainer, writer and newsletter guru Kivi Leroux Miller of Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com had to say.
Katya: Why are there no stories, or only milquetoast stories, in so many newsletters? What gives?
Kivi: Two reasons, I think. First, people are afraid that they can’t pull it off. When you say “storytelling,” most people envision either someone like Mark Twain or Toni Morrison or a wild-haired grandpa on a stage at some mountain storytelling festival spinning some yarn — someone with way more creative juices flowing. Or they simply don’t think they are good writers, and the thought of writing something that qualifies as a “story” is just too daunting. It doesn’t have to be that way. Nonprofits have tons of great stories. Finding material … is never a problem.
Katya: So fix this problem for us!
Kivi: You just need to learn some basic storytelling patterns. In the book “Made to Stick,” which I highly recommend, Chip and Dan Heath identify three different types of inspirational stories: the Challenge Plot, the Creativity Plot and the Connection Plot. All three have very basic elements, and once you know what to listen for, you’ll start hearing bits and pieces of these stories all around you, every day. At that point, you simply have to ask a few questions to fill in the gaps and you’ve got great stories for your newsletters and other donor communications.