Follow these steps to strengthen your relationship with donors and increase retention rates. In my next post on this topic, I’ll share some key strategies for creating email newsletters that won’t immediately see the delete button.With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org. You’ve seen it happen: When we stop putting energy into relationships with family and friends—relying on past interactions to hold us together—those relationships tend to fall apart. Like your college roommate or that work friend from your first job.Relationships with organization’s donors require the same kind of focus and energy for the duration—if you want to keep them happy, involved, and giving.Unfortunately, recent research suggests that most fundraisers are doing a poor job of maintaining connections, with donor retention rates at an all-time low of 39%. That means your organization could be cut from the give-to list at any point.But there is a proven approach to stopping this fatal attrition—placing hyperfocus on relationships with existing donors to keep them close. That’s mammoth potential, and your donor newsletter is a vital tool for bringing it to life.Here’s how to put your newsletter into play:1. Share, don’t ask.The primary goal of both print and e-newsletters is to reshape your donor relationships from transactional to one that’s more personal, productive, and long term—the big three of donor retention.The only way to get there is to get beyond the ask. After your prompt thanks to a donor for her first gift, you want to invite her further into your organization. Make her feel acknowledged, appreciated, and right at home, just as you would the first time you invite a new friend into your home.In much the same way, your newsletter invites donors in to experience your organization’s (and community’s) personality, promises, and values in a rich, close way.2. Connect your content and your people.Think of your newsletters as opportunities to visit with a donor. Your print newsletter (vital if your donor base skews heavily toward older supporters) is like a rich, immersive visit where you have the opportunity to get into deep conversation. (In many cases, an occasional print newsletter can actually help your organization stand out.) On the other hand, your e-news is more like a quick drop-in.Stories form the core of your newsletter. Prioritize the elements donors focus on most: photos, headlines, photo captions, and articles. Here’s where you show what your donors’ gifts have accomplished and tell how much you appreciate them.Send this version of yournewsletter in both formats only to active and recent donors so your voice stays clear and focused.3. Keep it all about donors—with an imaginary editorial board.It’s tough to remember that your organization is just one small part of your donors’ lives, especially when you live your job. But consider your personal donations—how often do you think about the organizations you support?Keep your donors front and center with an imaginary editorial board composed of personas (aka profiles: how-tos here) representing up to nine of your most important donor segments.Then, get to know your editorial board members by surrounding your desk with these profiles, and keep them in front of you while you write. It sounds hokey, but it works!4. Make it easy to recognize and remember.Using a different mix of written and graphic content, and sometimes even different layouts, for every issue is the most common error in print newsletter production. Ugh!Although this “use whatever we’ve got” or “let’s keep it from getting boring” approach might make it easier for you to get the newsletter out the door, you’re making it tough for donors to recognize it at a glance (that’s all the time you get) and absorb it.Instead, create a content formula or mix based on your donor personas’ wants and interests. Consistently following this formula makes it easier for you to find and craft the content you need and for readers to recognize your newsletter at a glance—increasing the odds that they’ll read it.