Doing It Right! United Way of Central Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland)

What nonprofit organization does not send out a newsletter of some type? When donors are used to receiving newsletters from many of the charities they support, United Ways are challenged to provide an appropriate newsletter to their donors. One United Way that has been producing a newsletter that communicates effectively and efficiently with their donors is United Way of Central Maryland (Baltimore, Maryland).

Their “By The Way” newsletter is a one-page newsletter that includes several articles, along with listings of statistics and events. Each article has a picture or logo to draw the reader’s attention. This newsletter from March 2014 is the most recent newsletter, published by United Way of Central Maryland every three months. There are links to the past 17 newsletters on their Web site.

What are they doing right?

First, their newsletter is clearly written for the donor. There are stories about how donors’ contributions created affordable housing, volunteers reading to kids, and the Women’s Leadership Council advocating for 2-1-1. There are pictures of donors and volunteers, with links to even more photos, which makes the newsletter even more meaningful when people see someone they know from the community. This is in direct contrast to most United Way newsletters, which are solely focused on campaign and fundraising.

Second, the newsletter includes both statistics and stories, which are things every donor wants to see. When we ask donors what information they want from United Way, they want statistics, like the number of calls to 2-1-1 or the amount of healthy food collected and distributed, which are found in the right column of United Way of Central Maryland’s newsletter. Donors want to read stories, like the story about Kimberly and her struggle to find affordable housing and how United Way of Central Maryland’s Family Stability Initiative helped out. While statistics might appeal to some donors, and stories might appeal to other donors, United Way of Central Maryland appeals to all donors by including both statistics and stories.

Third, there are opportunities for the reader to engage with United Way of Central Maryland. There is a listing of events that people can participate in, there is an opportunity to register for the Emerging Leaders United Conference, and people can sign-up as an online ambassador as part of their Community Connectors program. By providing links to news articles and additional information, the newsletter allows the reader to explore topics in more detail if they wish. And finally, the reader can choose to connect with United Way of Central Maryland through their social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

A newsletter is a great way for United Ways to communicate with their donors. In most cases, this is an opportunity wasted, when the newsletter is all about United Way and not about the donor. United Way of Central Maryland puts the donor first in their newsletter. If your United Way is considering a newsletter, or it is time to refresh your newsletter, you might want to take a look and see how some of the ideas used by United Way of Central Maryland might improve work for your United Way. United Way of Central Maryland, you are Doing It Right!