by Bob Ball

Bob Ball is a senior vice president and executive creative director for Masterworks, a leader in the non-profit industry in branding, analytics and constituent marketing, donor engagement, and integrated online/offline marketing. He’ll participate in an educational session on giving that ECCU is presenting at the Christian Leadership Alliance 2013 National Conference in Anaheim, California.

Donor-focused stories prompt the most response. Stories that are written to the donor, for the donor, and about the donor.

Far too many newsletters are all about the organization. Such newsletters—I call them “Navel-Gazing Newsletters”—talk all about the news, the programs, and the accomplishments of the organization.

Donors are interested in what their money has accomplished.

Sometimes newsletters attempt to serve many different masters. These “All-Things-to-All-People” newsletters are created for several different audiences (in addition to donors). For example, some organizations use their newsletter to communicate with donors, volunteers, employees, board members, the media, and even the general public. This desire to be all things to all audiences makes it difficult to effectively focus on any single audience.

When the newsletter devolves to this point, it usually doesn’t make anyone happy and slides into irrelevancy.

In recent years, my colleagues and I have resolved to do something about this sorry state of the newsletter. We started by attacking the problem at the root. We decided to reverse the diffused audience focus and create newsletters with an obsessive, laser-like focus on donors.

The result is the Extreme Donor-Focused Newsletter. It is aimed squarely at the donor. In fact, it is all about the donor. This approach assumes donors give because they love to give and love to make a significant difference in the world. It combines reporting about what the donors have accomplished and offers them a clear opportunity to give again.

One major theme of the newsletter needs to be how important the donor is—“Look at what you have accomplished! With your help, we can do all this. Without your help, we will not be able to do it.” Look for ways to use the words “Thank you!” over and over again. It’s almost impossible to over-thank donors. (This is not merely a report back about what the organization was able to accomplish. This is all about what the DONOR has accomplished through their generosity!)

Giving is joyful. I can’t emphasize the importance of this simple fact. Donors—real donors—love to give. Your faithful, loyal donors are the people who give over and over again, and keep giving. They are not stingy grouches who must be cajoled and manipulated into reluctantly parting with their money. No! Real donors have discovered the secret of true happiness and all they need is assurance that their giving is appreciated and effective.

This key message should be explicitly stated: “Nothing feels better than when you help. When you give to accomplish XYZ, you know the joy of making a significant difference in the world!”

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