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Raising More Money with Newsletters than You Ever Thought Possible

Tom Ahern

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Raising More Money with Newsletters than You Ever Thought Possible
by Tom Ahern, 114 pp., $24.95. (Click here for quantity discount information)

There's a sleeping giant in your midst. One with enormous fundraising potential.

And unless your newsletter is bringing in thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars every year, it's

time to shake it from its slumber.

Today, countless organizations are raising more money with their newsletter than with traditional mail appeals.

And after reading Tom Ahern's riveting book, Raising More Money with Newsletters than You Ever Thought Possible, it's easy to understand why.

Great newsletters, as distinguished from the mundane ones many of us receive, have so much more going for them.

For starters, they deliver real news (not tired features such as "From the Director's Desk'' and "Introducing Our New Staff"). They make the donor feel important. They use emotional triggers to spur action. They're designed in a way to attract both browsers and readers. And they don't depend on dry statistics to make the organization's case.

Ahern knows newsletters inside and out. Not only has he written his fair share, but he's analyzed scores of them for other organizations. Moreover, his workshop, "How to Write Great Donor Newsletters," is consistently over-subscribed.

of related interest

OF RELATED INTEREST: Getting inside the mind of donors and communicating in a way that inspires loyalty and generosity is the focus of Tom Ahern’s book, How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money. Ahern’s trenchant advice applies to both written and verbal communications.

So when he speaks - as he does in engaging and eloquent prose- you hang onto his every word.

The essence of Raising More Money with Newsletters than You Ever Thought Possible centers around seven fatal flaws, as Ahern calls them. "Almost every donor newsletter I see suffers from at least one of the flaws," he says early in the book. "You would be shocked by how many newsletters suffer from all seven."

Along the way to discussing – and dissecting – these fatal flaws, the reader is treated to such chapters as:

  • Making news out of thin air
  • What a front page is for
  • Lower the grade level of your writing
  • Anecdotes versus stats
  • How should it look? A proven formula

And those are only five of the 45! succinct chapters in this book.

Chances are you already have a newsletter, that's the good news. You have the vehicle in place. The even better news is that transforming your newsletter into a substantial money raiser isn't all that difficult. As Ahern himself says, "You don’t need a degree in journalism to publish a newsletter that will keep your donors inspired (and generous). You just need a few skills and insights."

Read this book. Pick up those skills. And be assured that the ratio of time spent versus gains realized might well be the most cost-effective of your entire career.

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About the Author

Tom Ahern is recognized as one of North America’s top authorities on nonprofit communications. He began presenting his top-rated Love Thy Reader workshops at fundraising conferences in 1999.

Since then he has introduced thousands of fundraisers in the U.S., Canada and Europe to the principles of reader psychology, writing, and graphic design that make donor communications highly engaging and successful.

He founded his consulting practice in 1990 (www.aherncomm.com). His firm specializes in capital campaign case statements, nonprofit communications audits, direct mail, and donor newsletters. His efforts have won three prestigious IABC Gold Quill awards, given each year to the best communications work worldwide.

Ahern is also an award-winning magazine journalist, for articles on health and social justice issues. He has his MA and BA in English from Brown University, and a Certificate in Advertising Art from the RI School of Design. His offices are in Rhode Island and France.

Table of Contents

  1. You can do a great donor newsletter
  2. Why you need a donor newsletter
  3. These seven flaws are killing you
  4. Why try so hard? You are an intrusion
  5. What donors really care about
  6. A word on donor (dis)loyalty
  7. Readers have four personalities
  8. The four personalities go to a seminar
  9. Your Inner Amiable
  10. Your Inner Expressive
  11. Your Inner Skeptic
  12. Your Inner Bottom-Liner
  13. Fatal Flaw No. 1: Failing the “You” test
  14. Fatal Flaw No. 2: Lacking emotional triggers
  15. Fatal Flaw No. 3: No news is not good news
  16. The special language of “News-speak”
  17. What is news?
  18. Making news out of thin air
  19. Recurring themes
  20. What a front page is for
  21. How to write news stories: The Inverted Pyramid
  22. How to write news stores: Start with an anecdote
  23. Fatal Flaw No. 4: Hogging the credit
  24. Fatal Flaw No. 5: Expecting people to read deep
  25. The browser level
  26. The bouncing eye
  27. Eliminate gratuitous visual labor
  28. Pull-quotes bring your buried treasures to light
  29. Use subheads to break up columns of dense text
  30. The AP (Associated Press) formula for captions
  31. Your column width can slow or speed reading
  32. Lower the grade level of your writing
  33. Fatal Flaw No. 6: Non- or feeble headlines
  34. Case study: Hospital headline aims, misses
  35. How to write great headlines
  36. Case study: Foundation headline looks right, all wrong
  37. Fatal Flaw No. 7: Stat crazy, anecdote light
  38. Tips on using statistics well
  39. Anecdotes vs. stats
  40. How often should we mail? Scheduling and frequency
  41. An easy alternative: The newsy-letter
  42. E-newsletters
  43. How should it look? Domain Group’s proven formula
  44. My closing pep talk

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Excerpt The following article is excerpted from Tom Ahern’s book, Raising More Money With Newsletters Than You Ever Thought Possible, ©Emerson & Church, Publishers. To obtain reprint permission, please call 508-359-0019.

These 7 donor newsletter flaws are killing you

Almost every donor newsletter I see suffers from at least one of the following fatal flaws. You would be shocked by how many donor newsletters suffer from all seven.

Flaw #1: Your newsletter fails the "you test." I'll explain that simple (but critical) test later in this book. For now just keep in mind that a good donor newsletter is friendly, even intimate, in tone. If you insist instead on an institutional voice, you distance yourself from your readers.

Flaw #2: Your newsletter skimps on emotional triggers. You already know that charity starts when you move a heart. In a donor newsletter, tugging the heartstrings is a full-time job.

Flaw #3: You claim it's a newsletter (i.e., a bearer of news), but it's really just an excuse to say hi. Here's a dead giveaway: You devote your front page to a ponderous letter “from the desk of” an executive director or board chair. Beware: a newsletter with no news value is a waste of time and money. And donors are quite demanding: they want very specific kinds of news. Their interest in your organization can quickly wane if you fail to deliver.

Flaw #4: Your newsletter is not "donor-centered." It does not make the donor feel needed or wanted. Remember: people don't give to your organization. They give through your organization, in an effort to change the world. You have to give the donor credit as well as thanks.

Flaw #5: The newsletter is not set up for rapid skimming and browsing. On the contrary, you assume people will read long articles. Here's the harsh truth: most of your audience won't have time to give your newsletter more than a glance. If you bury important information in long articles, most people will miss it.

Flaw #6: Your newsletter has weak or dysfunctional headlines. If any of the fatal flaws deserves the title of "Most Deadly," this is it. Headlines have a function: to summarize the key points of the story. Almost every nonprofit newsletter I've run across has suffered to some degree from poor-to-worthless headlines. Of all the fatal flaws, inept headlines do the most damage. They make it impossible for your newsletter to succeed.

Flaw #7: It depends far too much on statistics (and far too little on anecdotes) to make your case.

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