A powerful donor-focused newsletter starts with stories. Not writing stories — finding stories.
You know your organization does incredible work. You know you improve the lives of many people. Now how do you cultivate those stories so that your donors can see the amazing impact of their donations?
Here are the 4 Ws (and an H) of donor newsletter resource gathering:
> What: First, create a story theme wish list. What are the themes of your upcoming newsletters — are you looking for stories that will reflect a specific program or service area? A specific community or demographic?
Pro Tip: Think about the surrounding fundraising appeals for each particular newsletter. You can use the newsletter to report back on, or tee up, a big fundraising offer. For example, if your next fundraising appeal asks donors to support your backpack program, consider including a heartfelt story about a child receiving a backpack in the newsletter a few weeks before the appeal drops.
> Where: Where are the places that the people you serve congregate? These locations can give you an opportunity to collect multiple stories in the same visit. Consider your programs, community partners (like food pantries or churches), special events, or community groups.
Pro Tip: Use your wish list to help identify the right places. Stories from seniors will likely come from a different location than stories about children will.
> Who: Once you’ve identified the What and Where, reach out to partners and others who are affiliated with the places you wish to visit. Leverage your relationships. Set up appointments and see if they can help pre-arrange interviews. While you can get great resource from candid conversations, scheduled interviews will more likely mean you’ll walk away with content.
Pro Tip: Wear apparel, a t-shirt or cap for instance, with your organization’s logo/mission on it. If anyone from outside your nonprofit (a direct-response agency, freelance photographer, etc.) will be joining you, bring apparel for them, too. This small detail can help put your interviewee at ease.
> When: Think about how the time of day or season might impact your resource gathering. Are you looking for stories for your Winter Newsletter in the summertime? Are you trying to gather stories and photos from families/children? You may need to schedule interviews on weekends or in the evening when children are out of school.
Pro Tip: If needed, you can take coats/hats/gloves (weather-appropriate gear) and ask interviewees if they’re willing to be photographed wearing it. This can make a summertime resource trip workable for your winter edition.
> How: Make sure you have the 3 essentials with you:
- Release forms: Have each interviewee sign a release form that gives you permission to use their story/photo in donor communications.
Pro Tip: Write down an identifying feature on each release form (woman in blue shirt, child with pigtails) so you remember which photos go with which stories/releases.
- Recorder: Record your conversations if your interviewee is comfortable with you doing so — that way you won’t miss out on using great quotes once you start writing the article. You’ll also be able to focus on listening, rather than taking notes, and improve your ability to ask follow-up questions that can uncover new and unexpected stories and details.
- Camera: If you don’t have a professional camera, your iPhone 10 can still produce acceptable pictures or video! But remember, eye contact with the camera is powerful. Also, if you can get a picture of your interviewee in a setting that that shows your mission at work, even better!
Pro Tip: If you include bounce-back devices in your fundraising appeals (i.e., holiday cards, ornaments, bag tags, etc.), take some with you and photograph your subjects holding the items your donors signed for them! This “closes” a powerful donation loop for your donor.
In order to create a meaningful donor newsletter that deepens your relationship with supporters, these newsletter resource gathering tips can help. Ready to take the next step in creating amazing, donor-focused newsletters? Watch our on-demand fundraising webinar on the 10 commandments of donor newsletters.
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