Can your newsletter beat the competition?

fundraising newsletters compete for readers' attentionYour newsletter is fighting for your reader’s attention. You might think of your competition as newsletters from other nonprofit organizations, but that’s the least of it.


Also competing for your reader’s attention is the ringing phone, the whining dog and the unopened mail. How can you compete with competition like that? Here are some tips:


  • First, understand that the only person who reads your newsletter cover to cover is you. Even the people who say they read it cover to cover probably don’t read every article. Don’t take offense. Instead, embrace that knowledge and build the best newsletter you can for your readers by making yor newsletter skimmable.
  • Use headlines to steer your readers to articles that interest them. By the same token, readers who aren’t interested in a topic can tell from the headline that they can skip that article. That’s a good thing! It means you’re helping them save time that they can spend on the articles that do interest them.
  • Keep your articles short.
  • Use lists and bullets to make your text more skimmable.
  • Use photos to help tell the story. When you write the caption, be sure to add new information that isn’t available by simply looking at the picture. If the photo shows a boy holding a teddy bear, the caption shouldn’t read, “Joe Smith holds a teddy bear.” Instead, it should say something like, “Joe Smith is one of the children who received a new toy at the party sponsored by the Anytown Organization.”
  • Remember to ask for donations in several articles. If you ask for money in only one article, and your reader doesn’t look at that article, you haven’t asked that reader for a donation!


What are your favorite ways to make a newsletteer skimmable?



Don’t have time to do it all yourself? To learn how cost effective it can be to use a professional writer or designer for your next newsletter, contact us at  at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].


Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.


  1. 1

    My best advice would be to really engage your reader. I always imagine the donor/prospective reader sorting their mail over the trash.

    What will make that individual pause, take a seat and read my newsletter? The “letter from the Executive Director?” The list of donors (only if I’ve given and want to make sure my name appears)? People give to people and good storytelling is essential for a good newsletter.

    Stories by and about those who have benefitted from your work, stories of your volunteers, the stories of your donors.

    Oh, and keep it simple and keep it SHORT! The 1-2 page newsletter is much more likely to be read than the 8 page glossy publication.

    Comment by Pamela Grow — January 19, 2010 @ 3:21 PM

  2. 2

    I totally agree it’s useful to picture the reader sorting the mail while standing over the trash can. If you can get the reader to sit down and take a look at your newsletter, great! What you don’t want is for them to set your newsletter aside to look at later when they have more time, because they often never get back to it. If people can complete the whole newsletter– and take action– while standing over the trash can, that’s terrific. Thanks so much for your comments!

    Comment by Connie — January 19, 2010 @ 3:40 PM

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