Print Newsletters: Too Tired for a Wired World?

With all the information that’s available online, does it still make sense to pay printing and postage to send a paper newsletter?

It depends on your content, obviously. But for several of our nonprofit clients, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

As we look at the numbers, two favorable trends stand out.

1. Relatively consistent performance.

Newsletters produce a fairly predictable stream of revenue. It can vary slightly issue-to-issue, depending on the season or the strength of a story. But as the chart below shows, for this client – who has been mailing the same four-page newsletter format once a quarter for the past 10-plus years – the return is relatively stable.

In fact, it has gone up over the past few months, while per-piece revenue from every other format is on the decline. What's not to love about that?

2. Stronger results from strongest supporters.

We recently suggested another client expand their two-page biennial publication to a four-page format. We were concerned less about telling more stories, but wanted to be able to tell more of the stories we shared.

Overall, the test version won by a slight margin. Looking more closely, we discovered some interesting differences, as the chart below illustrates. Among donors with cumulative annual giving of $100 or less (the majority of this file), the rate of response was actually down a bit, but that was offset by a slightly higher average gift; the test package produced just over 1¢ more per piece mailed (not a breakeven proposition, by the way).

The test package produced far greater results among those donors with cumulative annual giving of $100 or more … with double-digit increases in both rate of response and average gift ... and a whopping 92¢ higher return per piece. Our better donors appreciate more information even more!

Why does print work?

I’m not sure. A print newsletter offers a unique chance to provide tangible evidence of the work you do. To tell donors what their support helps you accomplish. To educate supporters. To explain your mission. To deepen the relationship.

Sure, an enewsletter can help accomplish those goals, too. But not in the same way.
  • A physical package can break through the clutter (think of sorting your mail vs. scanning your in box).
  • It may add longevity (yesterday’s mail is still on the counter; yesterday’s email is well past the preview pane).
  • It can reach people who can’t – or won’t – go online (there still are that stubborn few).
  • Maybe people are just more used to giving in response to print (we're seeing enews donations trend up, but not yet close to print).
Granted, the print advantage may not last forever.

But the beauty of watching your metrics is that you’ll know when your print newsletter is truly too tired.