Saving threatened habitats worldwide

How useful are electronic newsletters and ebulletins?

9 December, 2014 - 16:24 -- John Burton

I read many newsletters and electronic bulletins from a wide range of organisations, but I also delete a lot of them very rapidly. I know I am not alone in this.

Here at World Land Trust (WLT) we monitor our email lists, and I was recently told by the web team that we have a number of ‘Zombie’ followers (subscribers who don’t open the bulletins, but who don’t unsubscribe either).

This made me think very carefully about electronic bulletins and their usefulness. We measure the WLT ebulletins in a number of ways. We monitor the number of subscribers, the number of ebulletins that are opened, the number of web pages that are clicked on and for how long, and (of course) the number and amount of donations that result.

However, when I look at the bulletins of other organisations I wonder how their effectiveness is measured.

In my opinion, just keeping readers up to date is not good enough. Unless the reader feels involved they may gradually lose interest, so a bulletin on the internet must be able to engage the reader and, most importantly, inspire him or her to take action.

Making donations is one way that readers can take action (and for most conservation charities a vital one).

Other ways that readers can help are by answering questionnaires, spreading the word on social networks or by raising funds through some sort of sponsored activity. (That’s why we always include news of our supporters’ fundraising efforts in our monthly ebulletin.)

Time again (particularly from NGOs in the less developed countries), I hear it said: “People don’t make personal donations in our culture.” But is that really the case? Or are these organisations simply not asking their supporters for donations in the right way?

Too often NGOs in poorer countries are dependent on grants from other NGOs. While this enables them to be effective while the funds are coming in it is simply not sustainable in the long term: if funding dries up, grant-dependent organisations have nothing to fall back on if they have put all their eggs in this basket.

Surely, out there, there must be some NGOs in less developed countries that are successfully raising funds from individual supporters? It would be good to hear from any NGOs that are attracting donations from members of the public, so we can share these examples within our network of conservation partners.


Submitted by Abigail Schulz on

I having been working with churches and nonprofits for over a year now. I help them learn ways to increase fundraising for their organization. One of the biggest questions I work with is how to raise more from personal donations. Here are some of the ways I have helped implement increased fundraising:

1. Let your givers choose which projects they want to sponsor. Make different projects that allow a giver to see what their money is going for. Is it new Bibles for a missions trip? Do you need funding for a new building? Tell the readers what you need money for.

2. Ask for recurring donations. This may take time but it is well worth picking up the phone and talking to people that give every once in a while. Ask them if they would be willing to set up a monthly donation for any amount and have a easy way for them to do it!

3. Accommodate every avenue that someone would like to donate. When I help setup a church I have them put our Continue to Give donate on their facebook for easy facebook donations. Next we put a donate button on their website. In addition we have them print out Text to Donate numbers in their bulletin and QR codes so that people can donate on their smart phones. Lastly, for most churches and nonprofits we get their kiosk setup so anyone can swipe and donate. All of these avenues are important in order to make the donating process as easy and smooth as possible for the giver!

Here is an example of a church that is using projects. You can see how the giver can really choose and feel good about where their money is going under the projects tab. Take note of how they introduce the project with pictures and a description.

Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

Please John, I know you to be a wise man of wide experience, and I appreciate that this lady is trying help - but please, dear God, reassure me that you're not about to become like the missionaries and churches! Nature conservation REALLY should be a different kettle of fish.

Money should be raised and applied as and to where it is required on a parsimonious and carefully judged basis. The very real danger with religions is that they lose the plot with an ensuing urge to go Hell for Leather for world domination, with consequent crusades, wars, mass murders, persecutions, killing with kindness... you know the sort of thing.

I'm much persuaded that Jesus himself ( a nice Jewish boy by all accounts) was entirely averse to people going a bit mental in this regard, if I'm reading him right (Matthew chapter 23, which blows organised religion out the water; Luke chapter 11, numerous other instances )."Better to light a candle at home than to burn incense in a far place" as the ancient Chinese put it, appears to be much more his (and indeed all truly inspired leaders') style. Maybe it should be ours too; making it our first priority to put our own house in order, then looking to farther afield because ecological concerns know no national borders and there is only one atmosphere, acting locally but thinking globally etc etc.

I would start to worry, as a sincere WLT supporter, if unfettered fundraising fervour became the order of the day because I'm sure it would encourage sloppy thinking and even worse, bad practice. I like the carefully targeted approach that doesn't lend itself to world domination, has no pretensions to being able to fix everything and so eschews screwing the punters for every last dollar, just because you can.

I'm sure it's just like how the bumper plate says: "it's what Jesus would do" !

Submitted by John on

I too have a problem with religious fanatics; the nice peace loving Mennonites are also some of the most efficient destroyers of forests the world has even known. They are not bad people, just misguided. And quoting the Bible is always dangerous. Leviticus has some of the best quotes of course. And you can rest assured WLT fundraising will not seek to emulate North American Evangelical churches. I will never use telephone fundraising, for instance. In fact I didn't ask for responses from such sources, but will leave it posted, as I like your response to it Dominic!

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