Everyone will want to read your newsletter. hzv_westfalen_de, pixabay.com
When I was a kid, lo these many years ago, I attended Glendora United Methodist Church in Southern California. My mom and dad got me there for Sunday School when I was a tot but by the time I hit junior high they stopped going and it was my choice to go or not to go. I said, “go.”
I loved my MYF Youth Group. I was a faithful church attender as well and every week I was mailed the church's newsletter, “The Signal.” Probably, because I was an odd teenager – I read it faithfully. Now I'm all grown up and – (probably) because I’m an odd adult – I still like reading my current church’s newsletter, “The Spire.”
Every year, when budgets are due and money is tight, many a church finance committee asks about cutting the newsletter, the one that you can hold in your hands. It seems like a logical idea: postage is expensive, the cost of paper is high, and it’s a hassle to find volunteers to assemble and mail it. Think long and hard before you make the decision to forgo the paper newsletter. Here’s why:
- The newsletter is a welcome in-home reminder about your congregation or organization.
- Unlike an e-newsletter, the hard copy newsletter can be picked up and read at one’s leisure.
- A hard copy newsletter can be picked up and read by a friend who’s visiting (instant evangelization!).
However, a newsletter is doing no one any good – and will not be read – if the content is boring. Re-frame your newsletter as a stewardship/donor report. Hint: this works really well for an e-newsletter as well.
Two top-notch development people, Vanessa Chase Lockshin and Jeff Brooks, have recently written about how to do this. Here are a few highlights from “10 improved content ideas for your non-profit newsletter” and “What to put in an effective nonprofit newsletter”:
1. Share an impact story (or two or three). The newsletter is your opportunity to brag – not about how great you are, but how great your people are for helping to make the world a little bit better.
2. Interview a donor. Ask them why they are motivated to give and what role their faith plays in giving.
3. Publish op-eds. Most church newsletters already do this in the form of the “Pastor’s Message.” But here’s where you can improve: make your message shorter, easier to read, and bold things that are important. Give the message a title that will make people want to find out what you have to say.
According to Jeff Brooks – whose job it is to raise money through newsletters – here are a couple of other things that he’s discovered through extensive testing:
4-page newsletters perform much better than 8-page (and longer) ones.
2-page newsletters do just as well as 4-pagers.
Now I get it, you’re not using your newsletter to raise money. But, couldn't that be a natural outcome of a newsletter that focuses more on reporting impact and less on announcements? Let's review how this works:
a) Readers see that their faithful stewardship is making a difference in the world. b) That makes them feel good. c) They want to give more joyously. d) That means, newsletters…for the win!
P.S. I’m happy to take a look at your newsletter and give you some feedback on it. Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.