Newsletters: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

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By on June 1, 2006   /   Leave a comment

Like you, I get numerous ministry newsletters each week from various Christian workers around the world. A few are good, more are bad, and some…really ugly! Let’s look at them in reverse order:

The Ugly :

1. Distress signal : “We’re going under unless you give!” may work once, but if we do it again, our supporters will have huge questions about our ability to raise and manage funds.
2. Subtle ask : Instead of asking folks face to face to join our team, we slip in hints in the prayer requests, or even worse, we include envelopes to do “the ask” for us. Even more manipulation? Putting a stamp on it!
3. All family news : As excited as we are about Tommy’s baseball or Katie’s soccer, our supporters are not investing in us to find out sports scores. Have a small family section, but focus on the ministry’s progress.
4. No news is bad news : A ministry update just once or twice a year communicates we really don’t care about them or their investment. A few years of that and we can say “aloha” to our support team.

These go straight to my folder on how not to do a newsletter.

The Bad :

1. Sea of words : A newsletter that’s all text quickly overwhelms the reader. If it has no pictures and very little white space, it won’t have many readers, either.
2. Too much detail : Research tells us our readers will give us 11 seconds. They look at pics, captions, bullet points, and the P.S. To draw them into the text itself, it better be short—and powerful!
3. Insider speak : Don’t use religious jargon or acronyms with your staff, instead, spell everything out, in simple language.
4. Poor talk : Sharing pics of the old van with 200K miles, how neighbors gave our kids clothes, or that health insurance has gone up makes us look like beggars and robs us of the dignity of our ministry role.

These go straight to my circular file that gets taken to the city dump each week.

The Good :

1. Get permission : If you ask each contact if they would like to receive a newsletter then they won’t view it as junk mail. And, if they aren’t supporters yet, this can open the door for a future appointment!
2. Standard of excellence : A perfectly spelled, well laid out, creative printing (color increases readership 60%!) of our newsletter says everything about us—and our ministry.
3. All about vision : Make sure the headlines, pics, stories, prayer requests all stay focused on the vision of the ministry.
4. Changed lives : Each newsletter should include a pic and a story of a transformed life. It doesn’t always have to be someone we led to Christ, but a person impacted by our ministry. Our supporters’ giving dollars are a spiritual investment and they want to see the dividends!

These go to straight to our family devotional time the next morning to help build vision and passion in our children’s hearts.

Bottom Line: The purpose of newsletters is to share VISION and CHANGED LIVES

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