August 22, 2014

Creative Ways to Raise and Make Money With Your Nonprofit Newsletter

You might, of course, charge your readers for it.

But assuming you don’t have this in mind, how else might you obtain donations and earn income with your organization’s newsletter? Here are two ways with examples to generate fresh thinking about this versatile and often overlooked income tool.  You may have other ways that I missed—if so, please share below!

1. Drive Home Efforts. To grow revenue, sync your newsletter with your income development efforts.

How might this work? Let’s consider Andy’s example.

Along with his plan to mail an annual appeal letter in November, Andy develops this four-month sequence of newsletter content:

  • October Issue: Include a text box to build anticipation about the letter.

Andy drafts text informing readers that the letter contains a surprise they won’t want to miss.

  • November Issue: Use the theme: how annual appeal income makes a vital contribution.

Andy asks three donors for their mini-testimonials about their giving experience. In the process, he warms these relationships, learns more about these donors, and offers readers three inspirational stories.

  • December Issue: Remind readers it’s not too late to give, the benefits donors enjoy including information about the lives they’ll change.

Andy writes a one-paragraph story about a customer’s transformation. To encourage gifts, he includes an envelope in the print version and a “donate now” button in the electronic newsletter.

  • January Issue: Thank donors for their gifts with a “hug in print.”

Andy writes text and includes several pictures of how gifts already create amazing results.

2. Stand Alone Support. Your newsletter is also a tool to earn financial support directly. Use it in all or some of the following ways:

  • Calls to Action. Who are your readers? What step do you want your readers to take? How will that action support income growth? Decide your answers before your write. Then write toward your call to action. By doing so you’ll avoid making the call to action an awkward appendage.

As Andy writes about the Legacy Society, he writes with the goal of having readers call him to learn more. Two readers call.

  • Value Rich. Money follows value and not the other way around. Despite the information overload this culture provides, newsletters with the right information deliver tremendous value.

Andy hunts for information about his cause to educate readers and to support his goal of making the newsletter the place to turn for cause information. He includes stories and facts that educate and establish the possibility of reciprocity.

  • Enhanced Learning. Assuming you have a healthy database, use your newsletter to test ideas. If your newsletter is electronic. test variations such as text or pictures. Or, vary the location of your call to action. The late Susan Nowatne, a Red Cross Fundraiser of the Year, never sent a mass communication without conducting a test to enhance future mailings.

Should he include an envelope in the print newsletter? Andy decides to find out. He divides the mailing list. Half of the recipients’ receive a donation request and coupon in the text. The rest receive the same text plus an envelope. Andy also remembers to measure the results—which can be the hard part because of the time delay. He learns from his constituency the cost of the envelopes fails to be met by their inclusion.

  • Follow-up. When emails bounce or your run articles of interest to specific people, you receive two logical reasons to make follow-up telephone calls.

After sending the newsletter, Andy reviews it and contacts seven people who have interest in the context to get their feedback. A week later, he reviews all of bounced emails. He contacts people to learn if they’ve moved and what’s important to them now.  From those, he makes three appointments.

  • Ads. An income opportunity that might deserve a fresh look at your nonprofit:  newsletter ads. Should you consider them in your income development strategy?

Andy seeks to create a cadre of business supporters. Not only is the potential for income important, he knows that business supporters will help with some political issues. He uses the newsletter ad opportunity as a possible benefit to the local business owners he contacts.

Can you make money with your newsletter or support your income? Yes. Will you? It’s up to you. Make your newsletter as a multifunctional tool in your income development arsenal. What ways have you found to use your newsletter to grow or enhance income?


Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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