News. In a letter. Doesn’t sound that terrifying does it? Yet for many Christian Workers the thought of putting fingers to keyboard brings them out in a cold sweat. But help is at hand.
We’re here to give you the definitive guide to writing a regular, engaging and—dare we say it—enjoyable supporters’ newsletter. If you don’t read any other blogs this month, make sure you take this one in. Print it out and pin it up over your desk if you like; if it helps, look on us as your friendly virtual editors. After all, we’ve read a lot of newsletters over the years so we know what works.
First things first. Take a deep breath and remember that you are writing this newsletter to update a bunch of people who love you and believe in what you’re doing. You don’t need to apologise. Believe us when we tell you that they haven’t been pacing the floor, losing sleep because your email is a couple of days late.
Remember the why, how and what. WHY you’re doing what you’re doing (your ministry story), HOW you are doing it (who you’re working with and helping) and WHAT that looks like (activities and needs).
Put a smile on your readers’ faces. Start with some good news. Your supporters will be delighted to hear all about it, with a photo if you have one.
Don’t fall into the airbrush trap. You don’t need to gloss over the difficulties and pretend that everything’s fine. Your supporters care about you. Equally, don’t dwell exclusively on the tough times and struggles. You need to be honest, but if all you do is tell your supporters what’s going wrong, they’ll become dispirited and discouraged.
Make it as easy as possible for your supporters to help. If you’ve put an appeal out, give them a link to click on and make sure it works.
Think about the length and frequency of your newsletter. We’d suggest between 500-700 words, or around 3-4 pages (with photos) as a rough guide. If you’ve got lots going on and plenty of content, you might want to email monthly. If there’s less going on, six times a year is just fine.
Tell stories. Get into the habit of noting up or journaling at the end of each day and refer back to your notes when it’s newsletter time. You’ll also find yourself being encouraged by seeing God at work through you. Try to avoid linear story telling (“We did this, then this happened, then we spoke to someone and now we are here.”) Instead, think about how you’re transforming lives with examples and weave that into your text.
Remember to say thank you, every time.
Stick to a basic format in your newsletter. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time. An example we love is the newsletter from the Beehive Nakuru, a project in Western Kenya working with very young mothers and their babies. They use lots of images, have plenty of links and keep the tone interesting and engaging. See https://beehiveafrica.org
Avoid jargon. If you’re abroad or living in that well-known location Acronym City, don’t use language that will baffle your supporters. You might know what NGOs, MTCs, MLCs and MITs are, but your readers will be scratching their heads.
Bring in some different voices. You don’t have to write the whole thing every time. Invite someone to do the odd guest spot. Changing the voice keeps it fresh and engaging.
Think about your social media presence. Facebook’s good for regular updates and pictures, plus the odd video clip. The advantage of this is that your supporters can interact and share, widening your network. The down side is that you have to be careful about your privacy settings and sharing sensitive information.
Think about who you’re aiming at. If you’re trying to attract support from millennials or Generation Z, you’re more likely to find them on platforms such as SnapChat, YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram. The over-40s (in general) are much more likely to respond to Facebook.
Don’t beat yourself up. You’re not writing for the New Yorker. Your job is to tell your supporters what’s going on and to open up a window into your world, not win the Booker Prize.
And finally – remind yourself why this all happened. God spoke directly to you – yes, YOU – and gave you the privilege of working with Him to change lives. You’re a life changer, working with Him.
Want to know more? Help is at hand. Download our free guide ‘getting your message across’ here.