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The Role of Newsletters: Stewardship ROI

What is the purpose of your newsletter?

Newsletters have been around for many years in the nonprofit world. They have been the key communication tool for many organizations and sometimes the only tool used to keep supporters informed for missionaries.

When I am working with a client to create a comprehensive development strategy, one of the first things I look at is the communications strategy. I ask, "What is being sent to our donors, stewards, and support team — and why?"

Usually I find a complex, redundant system of communication tools that overlap, compete, and usually have no focus. I also find that most communication strategies are built around the newsletter. The newsletter is many times the main and most often used communication tool to connect with donors and stewards. 

But is your newsletter focused?  Do you know what the purpose of your newsletter is?  Do you know what response you want from your readers?

Here is my suggested main purpose of a ministry/nonprofit newsletter: Stewardship ROI.

The main purpose of a newsletter is to report back to the donor, to the steward who has invested their gifts of money, prayer, and volunteering. You are to give them the stories and information that symbolizes a RETURN ON INVESTMENT.

A newsletter is supposed to give the stories that the steward/donor WANTS to read. They want to be updated on the progress, the impact, and the miracles that their gifts empowered. Remember, the definition of development is to "create opportunities to connect God's people to God's work". 

The newsletter is about what the STEWARD wants to know, NOT what the organization wants to tell them.  It is about marketing, not sales. Yes, the organization knows what the donor should know, but it's about the viewpoint from which the newsletter is designed and written that's important.

Another way of looking at it is an internal versus external viewpoint. Sometimes organizations want to "blow their own horn" about a new staff or board member, or even the latest cookie recipe. That is an internal viewpoint. The external viewpoint tries to look through the filter of the steward and ask, "What do they want to know?"

As you have your concept meetings about your next newsletter, start by discussing STEWARDSHIP ROI. See where the discussion takes you. Think about your stewards/donors who are trying to make wise investments in ministries that touch people's lives and produce an impact. Then plan your newsletter accordingly.

I hope this produces some great stories and reports that will keep your donors connected to your cause and your mission statement. The bottom line is you owe it to them!

I hope this is helpful, and let me know what you think!