How Your Newsletter Can Make a Difference

How Your Newsletter Can Make a Difference
I like social media.  To be specific, I like Facebook.  I have no idea how to Twitter (excuse me – only 140 characters?  I guess some of us just have the gift of gab.), Instagram scares me (20 seconds and the photo is “gone”?  Gone where?), and LinkedIn perplexes me (Should I wear a three-piece suit when I check-in?).  Over the past few years, churches have been encouraged to expand their communication repertoire through social media to reach more people.  And there’s nothing wrong with that. Really.  Feel free
to join the 21st Century.  But here’s an old-school communication approach that many of you still embrace and that can be extremely effective:  the newsletter.

Now I have seen my fair share of newsletters – the good, the bad, and well…the downright sad.  Sad, because it’s a wasted opportunity. I bet that at least 75% of your newsletter is filled with “announcements.”  The other 25% of your newsletter might be filled with reports – often a big meh (picture someone shrugging their shoulders) for the reader. Here’s a thought: What if you made a conscious decision to make “telling your story” the focus of your newsletter?   Your newsletter should be about the impact your church is having in the lives of people you are reaching – those in the pews and in the larger community.

According to Jim Shapiro of Better Fundraising for All, people still love picking up and reading a newsletter. But he suggests maximizing your impact by telling stories.  Here are his suggestions on how to do it:
  • Keep it short.  300 words are enough since people scan articles.  And make your entire newsletter four-eight pages depending on the size of the paper.  Remember:  Less is more.
  • When you write, write with one person in mind – for the reader, it makes it a more personal experience. 
  • Keep the focus of the article on one person, one cause, one issue.  For example, write an article about Joe, from your youth group and his experience fighting malaria; or Betty, from United Methodist Women, and her work for sensible gun laws; or Xavier, from the choir, and his reflection on a recent choral piece he sang in church.  Throw in a photo too.
  • At the end of the article, thank people for their generosity of money and time that enables individual and collective lives to be changed.
The newsletter can either be the bane of your existence or it can be an opportunity to express the awesome impact you are having in the world.  Let’s hope that what you are doing in your congregation and community is so wonderful, you can’t wait to tell everyone…because people really are waiting, waiting, waiting to hear that Good News.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012.  She likes reading newsletters and supports sensible gun laws.  Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.