If I am committed to writing a blog post every week—without fail—and yet I find myself with nothing to say, should I write one anyway?
Why? Because consistency matters.
If I miss a week or two, should I profusely apologize to my quiet but committed readers for missing, followed by an explanation of why I missed?
Why? Because they are not that committed.
Bob, aren’t you saying the exact opposite with those two questions?
Yes and No.
Boy that’s helpful.
Okay. Here’s my point. When it comes to ministry newsletters (often called a “prayer letter”), consistency DOES matter. Every person—and/or every organization—has a different cycle of consistency. Some ministries encourage their staff members to write a monthly newsletter; others encourage a quarterly newsletter with interim letters or notes to key groups (e.g., quarterly for all people and monthly for donors only).
Regardless of the frequency, I have two axioms about newsletters:
- Be somewhat faithful to the schedule… that is, be consistent.
- NEVER apologize in a newsletter
The first book I ever read on “major donor development” was called The 7 Deadly Diseases of Ministry Marketing by Doug Brendel. Though written for corporate donor work, it profoundly impacted how I raise my personal support. One of the most significant principles I learned was that my partners are not sitting at their mailbox anxiously awaiting my newsletters, nor secretly condemning me each day it is late.
To think that they are checking me off for sending the newsletter on time actually suggests I am the center of their world. I’m probably not.
The book also jokingly made the comment that one fundraiser could send the exact same letter twelve months in a row and raise more funds than someone who sends twelve radically different letters in a row. Why? Because consistency matters.
Next question: Without checking any history or logs, answer one of these questions:
- How many newsletters have you sent in the last 365 days?
- How often do you send your newsletters… monthly? quarterly? six-weeks? bi-monthly?
- What date do you drop your letter in the mail?
Before reading further: This is NOT a guilt blog post. I am not suggesting you should write your letters with any specific frequency, on any specific day, etc.
But I am suggesting that consistency matters. And this is how and why this is a TNT tip and not just a “support raising principle”.
A common business principle is that you cannot effectively evaluate what you cannot measure. Since March 2006 I have used a Group | Log History to record sending my newsletter each month. This helps me easily review:
- How many newsletters I send each year
- How many people are on my newsletter list (the number ebbs and flows over time)
- That any individual partner received a specific newsletter
- The content of each newsletter… it’s a great way for me to look back if I have a question such as, “When did I write about Quebec?”
My newsletters have been surprisingly consistent over the past 12 years. I write 5-7 ministry newsletters per year. I also, typically, write two “Family Updates” separate from our ministry newsletter. And I send 1 or 2 special gift appeals each year. So on average I send 9-11 pieces per year not including at least one handwritten thank you note to every partner.
I almost hate to say this, but when I do coaching of missionaries, more often than not the most common thing I see is too few communications. Ministry is busy and time flies, and I forget to keep my partners in the loop. This is also why I strongly encourage missionaries to use an Annual Plan. I think this helps plan and execute good communications with our partners.