A Mailbox isn't a Lonely Place

August 05, 2008

Posted in Marketing.

We don’t have a newsletter. We’ve done them in the past (several years ago), and we’ve talked about them for a about six months. But we haven’t actually sent one out.

Marketing, like comedy and investing, is a lot more effective when you have good timing.

What’s the point?

Nobody reads newsletters, right? According to various sources, you can expect about a 1-2% read rate on your direct mail. Because of our folks don’t read newsletters, they believe that nobody does. Is that return correct? Is it worth it? There are too many newsletters out there, we’ll just get lost in the noise.

It’s too expensive

Physical newsletters cost money to print and send. They cost lots of time in content development and design. We’d need to clean up our mailing lists. When there’s too much to do, a newsletter is an easy thing to forget.

So why do people do it?

Because that’s what they’ve always done. Like brochures and websites, newsletters are a tactic that many organizations employ. But too many of these organizations start off thinking tactically, when they need to start thinking strategically. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

“Tactics are doing things right, strategy is doing the right things.”

A newsletter, like any other tactic, can be very effective. It requires thinking strategically and making sure that the newsletter fits in with your strategy. These are the questions that have led me back to doing a newsletter.


Who are you sending your newsletter to? Do they already care? A newsletter may not be the ideal first contact, but it is a great way to keep in touch with those who are already interested. My audience is going to include existing supporters and parents of participants.


What do you want to achieve with this newsletter? Be decisive in your objectives – are you asking for money? Are you seeking participants or volunteers? I have two goals, so I have two newsletters. The fundraising goal is going to be addressed by a newsletter going to our supporters and interested parties. It will inform them of the huge returns we’ve seen on all of their investments this year. The second goal is to increase awareness, so that newsletter will go to the general community. We will follow these newsletters up with another contact – an annual appeal for the fundraising and a program brochure for the awareness.


Newsletters are just vehicles for content. They are only as successful if people want to read them. Create eye-catching headlines and tell great stories. There are a lot of resources out there on this – take some time to learn about them before you dive in.


Marketing, like comedy and investing, is a lot more effective when you have good timing. Depending on your programs, your needs, and the calendar year, some times of year work better than others. A newsletter that follows a news story about your organization (or your issue) will get more reads than a cold mailing. A newsletter that precedes your annual appeal by a few weeks should produce a better return on your appeals.

So what’s to do?

Well, we are working on a newsletter. Two, in fact. I have a specific, engaged audience. There’s a specific fundraising goal. It will be followed by an appeal about three weeks later. And it’s going to be chock full of great stories that we can’t wait to tell and people have loved hearing.


  1. MaThurrell — August 07, 2008

    Hey! I discovered your blog through Beth Kanter’s site. I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far! Just wanted to say hello! -Maria

  2. sandrar — September 10, 2009

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

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