Snoozeletter or Schmoozeletter?

If you’re responsible for creating your organization’s newsletter you probabaly scrutizine every edition for accuracy, messaging, typos and so on. But when was the last time you sat down and read your organization’s newsletter cover-to-cover … for pleasure?

Made you laugh, didn’t I? 


This donor profile from Lambda Legal's newsletter draws the reader in with good content, lively graphics, reader-friendly copy and compelling donor quotes.

That’s ok. Most of us are glad to forget our newsletters the moment they’re printed or we hit send. We fill them with staff and Board announcements, snapshots of people in suits shaking hands, and pictureless articles in 8-point type. We assume that our newsletter is about us, and so we write articles about ourselves. Creatively, we try to get each edition over with as quickly as possible so that we can check that box and get back to more important things.  

And lost in the drugery is a simple question: if our own newsletter bores us, what do our donors think?? 

Fortunately, all you need is a fresh perspective and a little imagination to turn your “snoozeletter” into a lively publication that engages, cultivates and even entertains your donors … a.k.a. (so sorry) “the schmoozeletter!”

Here are some tips to get you started on your own new and improved newsletter…

Be interesting to your donors. Your newsletter isn’t about you. It’s about your donors, and nourishing their interest in your work. If not produced entirely by your Development department, your newsletter should at least be a collaboration between your Communications and Development departments. Your newsletter should …

  1. Supply your donors with the information that interests them about your work and your issues
  2. Demonstrate the value of your donors’ investment in your organization
  3. Reinforce your donors’ sense of belonging to a community of like-minded individuals
  4. Lay the foundation for further giving

Tell your story. Many organizations make the mistake of approaching their newsletter as a straightforward chronicle of their accomplishments. Don’t give your readers program reports; instead, tell them stories, beginning with compelling headlines.

For instance, instead of “The So-and-So Organization Delivers Groceries to a  Record 350 Families ” try something like “Michaela’s First Thanksgiving” or “The Johnson Family’s Recipe for Happiness.” And then, for example, tell the donor about your organization by telling the story of a little girl’s first Thanksgiving or a family’s special time bonding over supper, all possible thanks to the donor’s support.

Avoid what’s not relevant to your donors. Certain content may be unavoidable, but be sure to keep the following to a minimum:

  1. New Board announcements
  2. New staff announcements
  3. Long letters from the president
  4. Photographs of people at podiums or holding drinks at parties

Make it easy on the eyes and visually appealing. Good newsletters are engaging in part simply because they’re pleasant to look at…

  1. Make use of white space for readability.
  2. Fill your newsletter with photos “from the field” emphasizing the beneficiaries of your organization’s work.
  3. Your newsletter should be attractive but not too expensive.
  4. Make sure your newsletter is very legible and friendly to older eyes.
  5. Establish a graphic standard for your newsletter (i.e. consistent design and formatting).

Do you have ideas of your own on creating more engaging newsletters? Then post them here or email us at topics@nthfactor.com.

mkdm-idea-bookAnd speaking of ideas, we have only a few more 2009 Idea Books featuring some of our best ideas for engaging donors, motivating action and inspiring philanthropy. If you’d like your own free copy, email ideabook@mkdmc.com. And if you already have our 2009 edition, email us to sign up in advance for your copy of our 2010 Idea Book, available in late February, 2010.


2 Comments on Snoozeletter or Schmoozeletter?

  1. Great Advice! As I’m in the process of giving our newsletter an overhaul, it’s wonderful to get timely tips on how to make it more interesting and engaging for donors (aka a schmoozeletter). Thanks!

    • Moira Kavanagh Crosby says:

      Glad to be helpful – and good luck with your new schmoozeletter! We’d love to be on your mailing list! Moira

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