In September 2015, I was asked to spearhead the launching of Fuel for Truth’s newsletter. When I discovered their lack of online infrastructure both in terms of a CRM and a communications tool, I proposed to the board of directors a budget that would allow them to upgrade their entire online presence and operations. Over the next year, I lead a committee in upgrading the organization’s website with the help of external consultants, establishing a system of work flow and communications, and launching ReFuel – their first ever publication.
Here is the strategic plan for the newsletter that I proposed at the beginning of the project:
As Fuel for Truth (FFT) aims to continue being one of the most prolific sources of Israel advocacy training, the organization will need a regular means of mass correspondence for a number of reasons. Primarily, a newsletter would serve as an additional value add for those who look to the organization for information. In turn, a consistent and timely news source would condition members and non-members to engage with the organization. Furthermore, with a credible publication, the organization will have a tool both for fundraising and for recruiting.
Ultimately, the FFT newsletter will benefit the organization in three central areas: engaging the community, recruitment, and fundraising.
- Establish a bi-monthly or monthly electronic newsletter for FFT to distribute to members, non-members and investors.
- Identify and hire volunteers for needed roles in producing the publication.
- Create an infrastructure for production including communication channels, deadlines and the needed technology.
- Overtime, obtain feedback from readers of the newsletter on what will need to be done better, what there will need to be more of and what will need to be done differently.
Measures of Success
Success will be measured in the following ways:
- E-mail blast open rates
- Increased fundraising dollars
- Increased applications for bootcamps
- Positivity of periodic survey feedback
Several guiding principles and best practices should be employed in order to make the newsletter successful:
- Simplicity – the format of the newsletter and the organization of content need to remain as simple and concise as possible.
- Consistency – the timing of release, content organization and quality all need to be consistent. If readers can be conditioned to expect the newsletter at the same specific time and day with quality content in a particular order, they will begin to anticipate each edition and will continually read it.
- Ingenuity – the newsletter cannot afford to fall into the basic structure of an average non-profit publication. In order to be a quality source of both news and community connectedness, it will need to employ innovative ideas and creativity. See “Ideas” section.
The target audience is composed of existing members, potential recruits and prospective investors. These individuals are characterized in the following way:
- Existing members – Individuals in their 20’s and 30’s who are pro-Israel advocates actively interested in knowing more about Israel, the broader Middle East region and some foreign policy. Many are fond of FFT, but many have become disengaged with the organization after graduating from the bootcamp. It can be assumed that they would find value in content that enriches their understanding of the state of affairs both in and relating to Israel as well as in being part of a network of likeminded individuals.
- Potential recruits – Individuals in their 20’s who are either interested in learning more about Israel or in also learning more about how to advocate on behalf of Israel. Their understanding of the issues may be limited and/or underdeveloped; therefore they may be looking for introductory information. Many may be looking for a door into a new community.
- Prospective Investors – Individuals who are charitable and are looking to have an impact on the minds of a generation. They likely believe that the pro-Israel movement could suffer without an informed youth and future leaders. In order to convince them that their return on investment would be high, prospective investors will need way a to see that FFT is providing substantial value to its members.
There are a number of challenges facing the FFT newsletter and the broader publication world:
- Other publications – The newsletter will be joining several other non-profit publications that the target audience receives. The newsletter will need to identify opportunities in which it can be uniquely engaging.
- Lack of time – The target audience will have very little time to read. The newsletter will have to maintain a consistent degree of brevity.
- Credibility – FFT bootcamp may be highly regarded by its members, but gaining the respect of a readership is different. There are an infinite number sources for information, and in order to be one of them for any given individual in the target audience, the newsletter will need to earn credibility. This can likely be achieved by abiding by the “Key Principles” above.
The following ideas for the newsletter’s content that may achieve the above stated goals:
- Need to Know – FFT is a source of information. These days, it’s difficult to sift through all of the information we receive. With the “FFT Need to Know,” readers will have 3-5 articles and/or essays that will oil their Israel advocacy engine.
- Ask the Expert – FFT has no shortage of access to experts on a wide variety of topics regarding Israel. With each edition of the newsletter, there will be a column in which a tough question would be asked to one of the experts that has presented at a bootcamp, and they would provide a thorough answer for publication.
- Advocacy Advice – In fulfilling FFT’s core mission, each edition of the newsletter should provide advice on advocating for Israel. Whether it’s a little known fact or busting myths, readers will be able to use the information in their conversations.
- Calendar of Events – No newsletter is complete without a listing of upcoming events.
- Guest Writer – FFT has benefitted greatly from the last day of bootcamp’s pin ceremony. Graduates reflect together in meaningful ways about their experience learning how to advocate for Israel. Hence, the idea to have a column where anyone can submit a “Letter to the Editor” type of work. Members want to see what other members are thinking and some will capitalize on the opportunity to be published.
Critical to the long term success of the newsletter is a strong plan for launch. Most importantly, all pieces need to be in place before the initial publication is released (i.e. all volunteer positions filled, a long term strategic plan drafted, etc.).
- Strategic Plan: the EC will need to work with the Communications Chair and all other stakeholders to develop a concise strategic plan that sets the course for everyone on the newsletter team. This will include the plan for distribution, content generation, volunteer hiring, data capture and analytics, succession planning and more.
- Framework: Utilizing the strategic plan, a framework for the content of the newsletter (e.g. the columns, design and features) will need to be finalized.
- Volunteers: each position should have a job description.
- Editor in Chief (EC) – this volunteer will likely spend up to 5–6 hours for each edition of the newsletter. The role will include managing each of the volunteers, reviewing drafts of each column, reporting the Communications chair, and final release of publication.
- Column Managers – these volunteers will likely spend up to 1-2 hours for each edition of the newsletter. The roles will include generating or soliciting content, reviewing drafts with the EC, and reporting to the EC.
- Graphic Designer – this volunteer will likely spend up to 1-2 hours for each edition of the newsletter. The role will include designing the newsletter, creating complementary graphics for each column and finalizing each draft with the EC.
- Technology – this volunteer will likely spend up to 1 hour for each edition. The role is separate from the newsletter management but is vital for distribution of the newsletter. The role will include relaying with the EC to blast the newsletter.
- Launch date: The EC will need to identify a launch date and begin setting deadlines to create the first newsletter.
There are a lot of variables that will affect the timeline to launch. Implementation of the above plan will begin once the proposal has been accepted and the EC hired. When the proposal is accepted, it is anticipated that the OpComm committee could expect to have a first edition of the newsletter within two to three months.