We spent a lot of time talking about nonprofit newsletters last month (August 2012) on my blog (1) because it's a very common communications channel for nonprofits and (2) because I needed to focus on the topic for the new book I am writing on content strategies for nonprofits. We focused on it so much that someone asked me on Twitter if I ever covered social media! (Yes . . . )

So let me wrap up the focus on newsletters for the time being with what is probably the most important question: Does your newsletter have a clear purpose . . . a motivating reason to live?

What's Your Newsletter's Purpose in Life?

Newsletters can consume huge amounts of time and money, and if you don't know why you are producing the thing -- really know why -- then you are probably throwing that time and money into a bottomless pit. Some nonprofits are thinking about killing off their newsletter precisely because they don't really know why they are doing them anymore.

So what are legitimate reasons for a newsletter to continue to live within your organization's communications plan?

Some people know they are writing a newsletter for donors, and therefore make the content very donor-centric, even if they don't actually fundraise directly off of the newsletter. They use the newsletter as a way to thank donors, to share success, and to convey a sense of community.

Others write donor-centric newsletters and DO use it as a fundraising tool. These newsletters make donors feel so good about their previous contributions that they can't help but send back that envelope included with the newsletter. If you want to learn how to use your print newsletter to raise money, Tom Ahern and I have an e-clinic for you starting September 25.

But there's a whole other category of nonprofit newsletters that are more about communicating information -- news, in other words. Nonprofits that serve a professional community in some way often publish newsy newsletters. Some advocacy organizations produce newsletters that are heavy on educational content for the people they hope will be the messengers for their cause.

Start with the Ultimate Goal

If you are having trouble figuring out what to include your in newsletter, start with the ultimate goal -- the action that you want the reader to take. What do you want people to do with the information you are sharing? Learn more about it? Share it with a colleague? Discuss it with others? Make a change in their own behavior?

Or is this really about convincing them to give again, or to volunteer, or to otherwise directly help your organization?

Once your know the answer, you'll be well on your way to creating a newsletter that really is worth the time and money.

Did you miss some of the recent conversations about newsletters on the blog? Here's what we covered:

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