3-7 Newsletter

Staying in touch and much, much more

One of the things you may like to institute down the road is a newsletter. Not only does it perform the basic function of helping you and your members keep in touch with each other, it can also be the primary promotional tool for your organization. If people want to know what you're about, the newsletter will tell them. A good-looking regularly produced newsletter inspires confidence in your membership, as they think -'hey, these guys seem to know what they're doing…'.

And more, your next batch of volunteers will be drawn from the ranks of your members, and everyone wants to be part of a success story, few want to join something that seems to be struggling. It is a tangible thing a member can hold in their hands, and can be a feel-good experience that allows the member to really identify with your cause and your organization.

If you want your organization to grow - consider the appeal and consistency of your newsletter; do not underestimate its power to attract or repel support for your organization and the work you do.

A newsletter can start off as a very basic thing, a one sheet notice board of events, newsworthy items and issues. It can be very simply produced even on a typewriter, but of course nowadays most organizations will have access to computer word-processors and even publication software, which can quickly produce an excellent design including pictures. Always include a quarter page 'Membership Form', to encourage new readers to sign up, and pay their dues, and old members to re-enlist. Your membership fees will pay for your services until you are able to arrange other kinds of funding. Consider allowing advertising; some professionals, corporations, other members, may wish to advertise to your membership, this can help offset the costs of newsletter production - photo-copying, mail -out… Don't load up with too much advertising, the volume of it shouldn't overwhelm the newsletter itself.

There are many opportunities to promote your organization in the community with your newsletter (and other info. i.e. brochures). Libraries, community centres, local social service offices, other self-help groups, churches, doctors offices (if you're creating a support organization) and so on could all be possible locations for you to display your newsletter. Also consider local/community radio and TV; they're always looking for newsworthy items, a newsletter dropped on someone's desk may be the progenitor of a radio spot or TV appearance for your organization. So, don't forget about distribution opportunities in the flush of yet another excellent production of a great looking newsletter!

Consider the plight of your volunteer editor. All too often stories/columns arrive on his/her desk barely ahead of the production deadline; what format are they in? - length ok? - spell-checked? - coherent? - grammar? -50-word sentences? Planning and design can be a big task; you will make your editors job a lot easier if you can establish some standards for contributions (article length, format, on computer disc, include hard copy/print-out…). Flyers can also be used as inserts to get attention and to promote specific events, use coloured paper to draw more attention.

Your organization could consider purchasing publication software. This will allow the work of newsletter production be shared amongst those members/volunteers who have a computer, if they are interested in contributing this way. A selection of people could each produce their own page, using a template for consistent design. More often than not it will probably be one individual person who designs and creates the newsletter - because they have the computer, software and the skills; however if you rely on one individual, what happens when you bum them out (inconsiderate demands, unrealistic expectations…) and they go away? Does your newsletter go away too?

Suggestions for Content (for a small newsletter-4 pages?-quarterly)

Consider judicious use of graphics! Photos are a nice touch - look professional.

Include 'white space' for readability; consistent use of fonts/type size…

The Pulitzer Prize is waiting for you!