I’ve heard from several nonprofits lately who are only sending their 4-8 page print newsletters to their supporters twice a year. They wish they were sending it more often, but they just can’t make it happen because of time or budget constraints.

My response: What’s the point?

Updating your supporters twice a year on your work is not often enough to keep them engaged in what you do and top of mind when they consider contributing time or money. And each edition of a print newsletter typically costs thousands to print and mail, not including staff time. I really question whether the newsletter is even worth doing at all if you can only do it twice a year.

Instead of spending all that money to contact your supporters just twice, with questionable impact, you might want to try switching over to postcards. Naturally, every situation is different, but in many cases, a full-color postcard will cost about 1/3 of what a typical 4-page color newsletter will cost to print and mail to your list. That means you could contact your supporters six times a year, instead of two, for the same money.

And the best part is that postcards are much more likely to be read, because they fit right in with the way we all sort and read our mail today. In the few seconds we each give a piece of mail in the pile, a postcard can grab our hearts with a great photo (that graphic side is really important), deliver the key point we need to know, and motivate us to take the next step.

What might these six postcards focus on? Here is one possible line-up:

1. Connecting a Donor to a Result. One one side, include a photo of one of your donors — let’s call her Alice — ideally in a setting related to an accomplishment of your organization. On the text side, in three sentences, explain how Alice’s donation helped bring about this great result. Then ask your supporters to join Alice by joining a monthly giving program. Tell them where to find the sign-up page on your website.

2. Encouraging Event Registration. Promote an upcoming event, emphasizing what attendees will get out of it, and tell people how to RSVP. On the front side, include an image that represents your event theme or the good work that will come from the money you raise.

3. Urging Print Supporters to Move Online. Tell them about all the great stuff they are missing if they aren’t going to your website, reading your blog, and subscribing to your e-newsletter. Make your online offerings can’t-miss! On the other side, use a funny cartoon or graphic or a screen capture of something really cool on your website. Or include a photo of your executive director in an “I’m blogging this” t-shirt. Here’s a little more on this from Elizabeth Turnbull.

4. Thanking Your Donors. Reproduce a thank you note from someone your organization has helped on one side and on the other, give us a little bit of the back story on the person. Reinforce that it’s the donors to your organization who really deserve the thanks. Ask supporters to sign up for your monthly giving program or to take some other action in support of your cause.

5. Empowering Your Supporters. What can your supporters do on their own, in their own day to day lives, to further your mission and support your cause? Give them a quick lesson in how to do something on one side, with a picture of someone doing it on the front.

6. Asking Them to Join You and Others. Are you planning a rally? Do you need calls made to legislators or letters sent to editors? State you need them to do, explain the difference it will make, and show your supporters how to join with you and others in making it happen.

Are you using postcards to market your nonprofit? Share your story by leaving a comment!

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