Newsletters - Get your message heard

A newsletter is an effective way to spread the word about fundraising campaigns and build your supporter base. Jane Hughes and Justin Smith give advice on what to write and how to write it

No matter how vital your fundraising, you won’t build a groundswell of support unless you communicate your key messages clearly and powerfully. UK charities generate more than £46bn each year because they are adept at eliciting a positive emotive response to their fundraising campaigns. Schools, too, need to think about how they can connect with and engage potential supporters on an emotional level.

An eye-catching single page newsletter (digital or hard copy) is a simple way to draw all your fundraising communications together into one bulletin, with regular updates published throughout the year. It functions both as a call to action and a way to acknowledge and thank supporters. It also ensures that important fundraising news doesn’t get lost among the plethora of school correspondence.

However, you need to be selective in your approach. Your readers and supporters are busy people who will appreciate key information being delivered in a quick and easy-to navigate format. So, avoid overloading them and asking for too much all at once. Prioritise your wish list by identifying school improvement projects that will have the greatest impact on your pupils,  or address the greatest areas of need (you may have identified these already in a fundraising plan).

Newsletter objectives:

  • Introduce new fundraising campaigns and demonstrate how they will improve school life
  • Provide updates on existing campaigns, including event successes and donations/grants
  • Inform people about upcoming events, initiatives and dates, and persuade them to show support
  • Celebrate success – both major milestones towards your target and, most importantly, the positive impact this has had on your pupils and possibly the wider community

Quality, not quantity

When considering what to write and how to write it, remember less is more. Choose your words carefully and make your core messages as succinct and emotionally impactful as possible. Take you guide from recent political slogans – Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives – repeated endlessly to drive a message home. Keep reminding readers about the difference the project will make to children at your school. If writing is not your bag, put out an appeal for skilled writers in your school community.

The purpose of your newsletter is to provide a narrative of your  fundraising journey and persuade people to jump on board. It should inform as wide a potential supporter base as possible about the progress of campaigns – and persuade individuals and organisations to donate or support in kind.

Layout dos and don’ts

Whether digital or hard copy, your newsletter needs to stand out and be instantly identifiable. So take time to get your branding and layout right.

  • Don’t use too many colours, borders and font sizes – they are off-putting.
  • Do keep things simple. Select easyto-read fonts, and use colours and point sizes to indicate importance.
  • Don’t run any text over background images.
  • Do include a header and footer with your school name, logo, and relevant contact information.
  • Do think of your signposting as being like the layout of your local supermarket – people like knowing where to find things so keep the same subheadings, for example, ‘Our wishlist’, ‘Success stories’, ‘Save the date’, or ‘Coming soon’.
  • Do make use of in-house design and graphics skills if you can, or send out a call for parental help. Publisher is straightforward to use, but you can also create a Word template that can be populated with content. This can be inserted into the body of an email, or printed off.
  • Don’t send the newsletter as an attachment, as this can easily get dumped into spam. It also creates an unnecessary extra step for people to access your content.

Distribute regularly and widely

Plan the frequency of your newsletters realistically so as not to overload readers’ inboxes. One newsletter near the start of every half term is a good routine to work towards, as this is regular enough to build a presence and pattern in supporters’ minds. You can also add your newsletter to your ‘Support us’ page, as well as publishing it on social media.

Create a draft schedule outlining what stories you are likely to share and when. But be flexible and always be ready to respond to – and celebrate – the unexpected.

Newsletter checklist

  • Focus on two or three fundraising campaigns over the year to avoid donor fatigue, and to build momentum. People are inspired and energised by working towards goals, so keep reminding readers why their donation is important (we may have mentioned this before – it’s intentional!)
  • Use persuasive language – pronouns such as ‘you’ and ‘we’ help create the sense that ‘we’re all in this together’. Other techniques (used every day by campaigners and advertisers) include using rhetorical questions, emotive language and repetition.
  • Include a section where you can share success stories – this could be a grant you’ve been awarded or a recent sponsored event. It’s crucial to demonstrate how everyone can make a difference.
  • Flag calls to action. Include a link to the ‘Support us’ page on your website. This is where people can learn more about the projects, and can donate online.
  • Use visuals – a fundraising tally thermometer or chart (downloadable for free), or photographs of happy children benefiting from your fundraising.
  • Keep your text bite-sized. Provide any contributors with a strict word count – they should be able to convey the most important information in 100 words or less.
  • Introduce a #hashtag to support your fundraising, and share this on social media.
  • If you have any business donors, include their logos/ contact details at the bottom to acknowledging their support.