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Your (letter from the) Director Needs a Facelift

Your (letter from the) Director needs a facelift. If you work for a nonprofit, you know what I'm talking about. It's that page in your nonprofit's newsletter (or worse -- the FRONT page) with a bland headline like "Message from the Director." Kivi Leroux Miller of suggests dropping it because "no one will miss it." I agree with Kivi. Your newsletter is precious real estate and should be filled with inspiring stories of the people you help, features that say "thank you" to donors for making it all possible, and useful information.

BUT -- there's a GREAT option to dropping it!

Give your "Message from the Director" a facelift. A planned giving facelift. Have you EVER heard of such a thing?! Well, now you have!

A little nip and tuck that's donor-centric. A few tweaks to highlight key messages ALL nonprofits should be promoting MORE not LESS. Those messages? BEQUESTS MATTER and REAL PEOPLE name charities in their estate plans.

It's really very simple. Here's the formula:

1. Swap out "Message from the Director" with "Behind the scenes with _____________." (your director's first name). This is a quick fix.

2. Have your director "talk" about a donors who has named your org in their will (or other deferred gift) and WHY they're doing this -- the reason they care -- what they hope their future gift will accomplish.

3. Feature a photo of your director -- preferably with a donor mentioned in the piece. But if you don't have one, don't sweat it.

4. You can add a few anecdotal examples of planned gifts, and you don't even have to name names -- you can say "...a retired teacher from Springfield who named the animal shelter as a beneficiary of her retirement plan. She's adopted and loved three dogs and wants to make sure all homeless pets find homes, too."

5. End your story with useful information like this: "If you'd like to do something special like this, please call me or send an email at (number) (email)." This shows that your director is accessible and involved. The worst thing that can happen? Your director receives too many emails from people who want to make bequests. She has to personally introduce you (the development director) to facilitate the gift.

Now that you have the formula, here's how your new "Message from the Director" might look. True it's from an Associate Director of Planned Giving, but it could easily come from your Executive Director or Development Director. I like this example because it features such a nice, friendly photo of Bea Sanford, who is now the Development Director of a church in Williamsburg, Virginia. I worked with Bea while she was on the awesome Planned Giving staff at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

You can see that there aren't any "extra" words in this story. We don't regurgitate a mission statement. Bea gets right to it and serves as a gracious hostess by introducing the reader to some wonderful people doing great things for NC State. Besides telling the reader she loves her job, she doesn't talk about herself. I've read sooooo many "Message from the Director" features where the Director (or her ghost writer) drones on and on about her love of nature or describes her drive to work every day. Seriously.

So please, feel free to steal this "formula for a facelift" and swap out your old "Message from the Director" with an easy, donor-centric feature that highlights planned giving! And when your boss asks you, "What are we doing about planned giving this month?" You can reply, "I have an idea that won't cost us anything -- we're going to use an existing communications platform -- our newsletter -- to introduce our donors to some of our existing planned giving donors. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this gracious introduction came from you?" (or something like that -- you know your director better than I do!).

Need help with your donor-centric features? Want to give your newsletter a facelift? Our phone consultations are the PERFECT solution! We can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time!

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