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Janet Roberts

Nonprofit Ezines: Remember the 'Ask'
By Janet Roberts



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Email newsletters are a great way for nonprofit organizations to stay in touch with their volunteers and contributors. Many groups who publish quarterly or semi-annual reports in print have also added email contacts, which can be more frequent, more personal and less expensive than their print versions.

I see newsletters from lots of nonprofit organizations in my Ezine-Tips work. Many of them do a good job in passing along institutional news, staff changes, client reports and the like.

However, what seems like a staggering number leave out the most crucial aspect of any development communication: the "ask," or a request for money, in-kind donations or volunteer hours.

Editors might be loathe to touch their contributors more often than the once-a-year major fund drive. Some contributors don't want to hear from you more often than that, either.

But remember this: Generally speaking, you're already sending to a friendly audience. Leverage the interest they've shown you by reminding them, tactfully and discreetly, of the many ways they can support your institution all year long.

Note the phrase "tactfully and discreetly." Don't hit readers with a full-on appeal in every issue, because that would detract from your annual fund drive or capital campaign.

Instead, think small and get specific:

  • Give donors something to support right now, as opposed to an ongoing giving program.

    Devote an article to a specific program you offer, especially one that doesn't otherwise generate much attention. A zoo could offer to let donors "adopt" a little-known animal, with donations going to cover food, medicine or other services. Or, a youth-service group could use a few new basketballs.


  • Put a reminder telling donors how they can help as close to the relevant material as possible.

    If you're publicizing a new museum exhibit, and you could use a few bucks to help cover costs, list your fund-raising or development director's name, phone number and email address at the end of the article. At the very least, include that contact somewhere discreet in every issue.


  • Include a link or graphic in each newsletter that goes directly to donor information at your Web site, if you have one.

    Spotlight a donor -- and not just the big names -- in each issue.


  • Don't ask just for money. Ask for volunteers or supplies, too.

    Today's volunteer or in-kind donor often becomes tomorrow's check-writer. You probably know that already; make sure your email efforts support your goals.

Ezine-Tips for May 16, 2003

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