Today in the office at Durham YFC I was sharing with my colleagues and a few other people who use the office (we share it with another organisation to save costs) the latest copy of our online newsletter. We use one of those online hosters , Mailchimp, so we can track the readership, clicks, and people can reply and unsubscribe, its a useful tool to check all these things and the platforms work well. (and no this post isnt sponsored by mailchimp!)
So, after a week or so of collating stories from the various projects we have at DYFC, mentoring, detached youthwork and afterschool club, and selecting the templates and formats and writing it up, I shared the drafts around the office via email to get critical responses. Now a caveat here; both we and the other worker have read up on communication, marketing and fundraising in a bit to try and write these newsletters in a way that will grab attention. Yet we have found, and i think this is common, that even in places where the work is valued by local churches, supporters who fund, and people are invested in it, actually getting responses and feedback is rare. Its nice to get the quick email response, the message, the card of support or mention of prayer. But i know i get alot of charity emails, and cant be bothered to click unsubsribe some of the time…
Maybe the ‘youthwork/mission’ newsletter is a pretty dated method, even in an email, or a facebook page , to share information, but communicating to friends, supporters and churches, especially those who fund the work is crucial, and so, here are some conclusive ways of at least eliciting a response from the newsletter, whether it generates funding is a mute point, but it is likely as any to generate a response. (if you feel sorry for us at DYFC, please do donate using the links on the above page)
So, top 10 ways to illicit responses from the church based- ecumenical youthwork project newsletter
10. If posting it out to churches, make sure you use the wrong amount of postage. You will get a response. It might be an angry one, but if clergy have to drive to the sorting office to pick up the newsletter, they will contact you to tell you about it. This ones from personal experience. a painful one….
9. Make several spelling mostakes in the newsletter. again, it will get responses.
9. Get a numbering system wrong.
8. Forget to send a newsletter one particular month.
7. Tell people using the general newsletter of a great plan you have for the ministry, that hasnt yet gone to the PCC or your line manager.
6. Using the Bible, or parables or the recent sermon in the church doesnt win you any response prizes. However, referring to a buddhist chant, the koran or stephen hawkins will draw attention.
5. Yes use colour photos and if possible just the photos of you holidaying and relaxing, or at conferences, in fact all the lovely times you have spent AWAY from doing the job the newsletter is all about.
4. Put an accidental swear word in the last article on the second page, see if anyone picks it up. Or subliminal message all the way through, like starting the first lines of the sentences with black sabbath lyrics, or something more familiar like names of your favourite celebrities.
3. Use the opportunity to share a story about how one of the young people you are working with has developed a keen interest in spirituality and wants to visit the spiritualist church, and as response you have taken the youth group.
2. In the prayer section, ie things to pray for, develop a habit of referring to young people by name, and also detailing all their personal secrets that they have shared with you. This tactic works particularly well if you send the newsletter to their parents on a regular basis.
1.The Big one, (aside from announcing in the newsletter that you’re in a relationship with the teenage child of the vicar) Yes you guessed it, the most response from any newsletter is the one that you tell them that you’re leaving. So why not try it every few months! Please pray for me as i go to AN INTERVIEW for a job down the road, and then tell people that you preferred to stay. That is preferred to stay because people have been so loyal and generous with their giving!
There might be a serious conversation about balancing keeping people informed, and how often this should be done, and the means of it. Yes most people are online, but physical newsletters might be better. And what kind of stories should we use, always positive ones? or some that represent the challenges of the work were doing? What kind of stories are fair, or are ones people want to hear ? And should we share the stories if they’re about young people. all of those things for a more serious conversation.
It’s all a bit of art, as there is no science to this, and sometimes getting any response from them is encouaraging. Mailchimp reckon on 50% of people read newsletters from charities using their online/email systems. So that means youll get away with most of the swear words on the second page anyway. Some people might not even click to get the photos, so you could pretty much use or write what you like.
And if you can get anyone to start donating to a project from the basis of newsletters, then pass this one back most of us in youthwork and ministry could do with all the help we can get!