Fundraising letters are a staple of most non-profit development programs. This includes letters sent out the old-fashioned way (through the mail) as well as e-mail solicitations. Fundraising appeal letters can be a terrific way to raise money, if you use them the right way.
Here are four ways your non-profit can write better fundraising letters that raise more money for your organization:
#1: Know Your Message
Many get flustered when they sit down to write a fundraising letter. Staring at a blank page, they just start typing, adding stories, statistics, and program updates until they come to the end of the page. This usually leads to a disjointed letter that reads more like a newsletter update than a fundraising solicitation.
Before writing your next appeal letter, sit down and think through the message of your letter. You are going to be asking people to make a donation in response to this letter, so ask yourself:
- Who are the people you are writing to?
- What do they already know about your organization?
- What do they not know that you want to tell them?
- Why are you asking them for money?
- Why should the reader care enough to send in a check today?
Create the message for your letter before you write it. Know what you want to say before you say it. I like to write an actual outline first, so that I can see the flow of the letter before I write the words and sentences that up the content of the appeal. Knowing your message and the letter’s flow first will allow you to write a more compelling, more readable fundraising letter.
#2: Focus on the Most Important Components of Your Fundraising Letters
Think through the most recent fundraising appeals you have received, either by postal mail or e-mail. What percentage of them used bolded words and sentences, underlines, bullet points, and a P.S. at the end of the letter? I would wager the answer is pretty close to 100%.
The reason these features are so common in fundraising letters is because they work. Fundraising test data shows that people read your first line, your P.S., your bullet points, and your bolded words first, and then decide whether or not to read the rest of the letter.
Use these components to tell the story of your letter, and focus on making sure they are as compelling as possible. Readers should get the gist of your entire letter just from reading the first line, the bolded and underlined words, and the P.S. Spend time honing them and reworking them until they are so clear, and so compelling, that people can’t help but want to read the letter in its entirety.
#3: Include a Real Ask
The most successful fundraising letters include real asks… not wishy-washy statements seeking support. Real asks are questions, and they include a specific range of amounts.
“We hope you will support us this year! Please use the enclosed envelope to send in your gift” is not a true ask, and will likely lead to disappointing results.
“Would you be willing to make a gift of $25, $50, or whatever you can afford to save more lives this holiday season?” is a good, strong ask that will get results.
If you want to raise more money with your letters – and your e-mails – you need to include true asks in every appeal. If you want to raise even more, here’s a bonus tip: reiterate your ask in the P.S. of your letter… that way, you’re highlighting the ask twice, and making sure your readers understand what you are asking for.
#4: Focus on “You”
Everybody – including your donor – likes to talk about, read about, and think about themselves. Your donor sees himself or herself as the main character in an important story… their story. They want to feel like the hero of that story.
That’s why “you” is the most important word in any fundraising letter. So important, in fact, that you will want to repeat it over and over again:
You make our work possible.
You are saving lives every single day.
Your heart for the homeless is inspiring. Thank you for all you do for the people we serve.
The next time you write a fundraising letter, sit down and count how many times you use the word “you.” Chances are, there are a couple of tweaks you can make with your letter so that it talks more about your donor, and less about your organization.
Photo Credit: Ron Reiring
Charles Wickham says
I am new to fundraising. I’ve been clergy for 33 yrs and now fundraising for a denominational ministry. This article has been so helpful. Short, to the point, and easy to read and understand. For a non-fundraising professional – thank you!
Jennell Muscatello says
I am currently enrolled in a fundraising/grant writing class at Kent State University.
Your tips have proved most helpful with my class assignments.
I look forward to seeing emails from you in my inbox.