Fundraising Writing email subscriber Kelsey emailed me a great question. She asks:
“We normally send two fundraising letters per year; one in the Spring and one in the Fall… What are your thoughts on sending out an appeal letter that is designed more to reflect a newsletter with a compelling ask…? I just don’t know how effective newsletters are in raising money compared to a fundraising letter.”
If you replace your appeal letters with newsletters, you will undoubtedly see a reduction in donations.
Appeal letters raise more money than newsletters—EVEN IF you clearly ask for donations... and EVEN IF you include a reply form and envelope with the newsletter.
Because newsletters are not singly focused. In a newsletter, we tell heart-warming success stories, and—sometimes— we ask for donations too. Newsletters make the donor feel warm and fuzzy... happy that they supported the cause.
Newsletters should make donors feel like this:
Appeal letters, on the other hand, are intended to grab onto the donor's heart and help them see that they are needed to solve an urgent problem.
Appeal letters should make donors feel like this:
Let’s dig in a little further.
No matter if it's in the form of a printed letter or an email, an appeal's purpose is to generate a donation.
In an appeal, you present a donor-sized problem that can be fixed when the donor makes a gift. Your appeal message shows urgency, is very specific about a problem, and is emotionally-driven. You ask for the gift, and the donor responds.
A newsletter's primary purpose is to report back to the donor about the impact they created because of their gift. In a newsletter, the donor's attention jumps from one little feel-good story to the next.
The secondary purpose of a newsletter is to ask for another donation. That’s why you don’t raise as much with newsletters: Raising money isn’t a newsletter's primary goal.
I want to show you a picture I made of the Ask-Thank-Report cycle. You might have heard about this fundraising model from brilliant minds like Tom Ahern and Steven Screen. (Update 7-11-2020: Steven just wrote a FANTASTIC blog about the cycle here!)
Basically, it’s the most simplified version of the donor communications process.
The Ask-Thank-Report Cycle:
Once you’ve completed the Ask-Thank-Report cycle, you have earned the right to ask again. (Just rinse and repeat!)
So, don’t replace your appeal letters with newsletters. Send a donor-focused newsletter in addition to an appeal—not in place of one.
If you are interested in learning more about newsletters and appeals, I wrote Newsletters vs Appeal Letters, Part 2 here.
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