Where the Money Goes

I have complained about paper newsletters before. I know that there is a demographic that like them and would get the information no other way, however, I still contend that the ROI is too low and the cost way, way too high.

I have never received a newsletter that could not easily and more conveniently, for me, be replaced by some electronic format.

In my mailbox, every month, I receive a community newsletter, whose sole use is the amusement of reading it as the President of the Homeowner’s Association wags her finger at people driving motorized vehicles on the grass, people parking over the sidewalks, and a retelling of how unmentionable, naughty things were found by the lake. *gasp* (My imagination is probably leagues dirtier than what is actually found out by the lake. In a way, I am glad the President is too prude to tell us exactly what is found in the recesses of the lake’s shores.) It is quite diverting. Mr. R chuckles with me as I read this part aloud. The newsletter is about 10-15 pages long and glossy. However, the 5 minutes of smiles I get does not equal the effort that goes into printing it. While it does have local club meeting information, I could easily get that information online at a central site.

My church used to send a biweekly newsletter, but we recently received the newsletter with an announcement saying that particular issue would be our last. Many things have gone up in cost and the church is trying to reduce costs where it can so we can continue to spend money on things that matter and fit with our mission as a church. Newsletters to members cost an annual $25,000. Our church staff believed this money could be better spent on missions and programs. Amen!

In contrast, this week I also received a newsletter from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation. It was glossy and in full color. Newsletters like that cost a lot of money to print, hours upon hours of staff time, and money for postage. I would rather the New Orleans Public Libraries spend money on things like new books, new buildings, and more staff. I should mention that there was an option on the back page to not receive the newsletter anymore. It was worded like an unsubscribe message at the bottom of an email which I found interesting.

When I give presentations on technology in libraries, I almost always get asked with what time do I suggest staff learn these new tools and skills. “Where does the time and money come from?” they want to know. I always tell them that we have to decide what is important. We put our time and money into things we think are important.

Yes, decisions are sometimes hard, but will we evolve and learn new skills or will we continue to spend time and money on things that may not matter as much as we think they do. Are the things we think are important really important to the people that matter, the communities we serve?

My church knows me better than my community association. I am glad my church wants to spend that $25,000 on something more substantial than a newsletter. I wonder what my community organization could buy for the money our newsletter costs? New playground equipment?

What could you do at your library of you found an extra $25,000?

–Jane, wants $25,000 to appear in her mailbox. someone start writing her a check already

2 thoughts on “Where the Money Goes

  • August 27, 2008 at 11:11 am

    When done well, paper newsletters serve a very specific purpose. When done not so well, they can be a useless drain of resources. While I don’t know about your church or community newsletter, I do know about the New Orleans Public Library Foundation’s newsletter.

    NOPL Foundation staff (including me!) does agonize over the costs/benefits and yes we do squeeze every penny until it screams. The NOPL Foundation’s newsletter is produced with the help of a local New Orleans civic-minded freelance graphic designer. We spend less money than if we worked with a PR firm, and we get the attention of someone who cares about the Library not just how many hours they can bill us.

    NOPL Foundation’s newsletter is produced twice a year and focuses on the “big picture”: the Library’s master plan for rebuilding better and our progress. It is paid for by the Foundation, not by the Library, i.e. with private not public monies. Handling some basic communication about the Library’s master plan by producing a newsletter is one way the Foundation supports the Library.

    Yes we do post the newsletter to the Library’s web site and you can opt-out of receiving it via snail mail but instead get an email notice that the newsletter is posted to the web. Thus saving at least one paper copy and the postage.

    Glad to have found your blog. I’m adding you to my delicious so I can keep reading once we’ve evacuated (deja vu! not to wish Gustav on anyone else but damn I hope we don’t have to evacuate).

    Mary Hogan
    Associate Director
    NOPL Foundation

  • August 28, 2008 at 8:10 am

    I am glad the Foundation has sought to produce their newsletter frugally. I know that very few newsletters are created without thought to the purpose and cost. I do understand that many people see much value added in a shiny newsletter, but for me they have no value. For me. I just have a hard time justifying the use of resources for printed newsletters. I also understand that in a constituency, I am only one person.

    Because some people do like newsletters, in the case of my church, the electronic newsletter is available as a PDF or as a paper copy at the church. I think this is a decent compromise.

    There were some good pictures and information in the last NOLA Library Foundation newsletter.

    We are keeping an eye on Gustave as well (here in Houston). Let’s hope neither of us have to evacuate. I hate boarding up the windows. Such a pain!

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