Tips to Energize Your Donor Newsletter
Flaw 5: Your newsletter skimps on emotional triggers. Neuroscientists have found that all decisions start with an emotional impulse, Ahern said. Organizations need to be aware of what these emotional triggers are and put them to use — photos of children for a food bank, for examples, or photos of endangered animals for animal-welfare organizations. He noted that people are more responsive to the possibility of saving something than of gaining something.
When focusing on emotional triggers, begin with the name of your newsletter — a high-visibility location that's the first thing donors see — and go from there.
Flaw 4: Your newsletter is not "donor centered," i.e., it doesn't make donors feel needed or wanted. Ahern said your organization should consistently reinforce the idea that donors are essential to your mission. The newsletter is the place where you can tune in your donor base to the problems the organization faces and make it clear to them that their support is going to make a difference. Make the theme of your communications be "your support is essential to [insert your mission]."
Flaw 3: The newsletter isn't set up for rapid skimming and browsing, i.e., your articles are long. People don't read articles, Ahern said, adding, "The loneliest place on the planet is paragraph three of an article. No one ever visits."
Enable newsletter recipients to get the information as fast as possible by writing copy at the "browser level." Eye-motion studies have found that a reader's eyes will go initially and involuntarily to the biggest things. "Browser level" is all of the bigger, bolder, briefer content that's easiest to read, such as headlines, subheads, tables of contents, lead sentences, pull quotes, captions, bullet lists, and photos and other art. Just a few words in a caption underneath a photo can convey a story. This information, Ahern said, is what will get through to readers.
Flaw 2: Your newsletter likes statistics more than anecdotes. Trophy numbers often are meaningless to donors, Ahern said. But anecdotes — text and images — "put pictures in the theater of my forehead," he added. An example of a powerful anecdote used by one of Ahern's clients was, "When she entered our 3rd grade she couldn't spell 'cat.' At the end of the year, she could spell 'Tchaikovsky.'" Anecdotes help people understand what you're talking about, he said.