How to Write a Fundraising Letter
Writing for a cause you believe in is a great way to develop your storytelling and copy writing skills. If you are a volunteer in a small grassroots organization, you may be called upon to help raise money. Perhaps you saw something on the news that moved you deeply and you decided that you wanted to raise money to help an organization out. Or your child just came home from school with a notice about raising money for a new playground and you want to solicit support from friends and family. You could also be participating in a crowd funding campaign for someone who has just experienced a major tragedy.
Seven tips for writing a donation letter that will raise more money.
1. Pick the right time of year to write your fundraising letter. When it comes to fundraising, there are certain times of the year that are ideal for sending a donation request. Your request will be more appealing and relevant if you can send it around a holiday or special occasion. Ask people to help your chosen charity celebrate the season or mark an important occasion by giving a donation in lieu of gifts. Tying your letter to a meaningful holiday will also help you tackle the next part of your letter, telling a compelling personal story that warms people’s hearts.
2. Tell a compelling story. Can you include testimonials or quotes from patients, program participants or service-users whose lives have been positively impacted by the charitable organization? Putting a human perspective into your letter will help donors connect with your cause. People give to make a difference to other people, real people. They aren’t motivated to help you meet “key objectives” or “financial targets” or “strategic directions.” Keep the abstract, business terminology out of your fundraising appeal letter. Tell a short story or anecdote that will help readers see themselves in your letter.
Note: Make sure that if you are using testimonials or interviewing the charity’s beneficiaries you have explicit permission to tell their story. Make sure the subject of your story knows what you are writing about and has given you the go-ahead to share his or her personal experience.
3. Be dramatic and use powerful phrases. Fundraising letters are not the place to be coy or timid. The language you use in your request for a donation needs to be direct. Avoid passive sentences or words such as “just,” “perhaps,” or “try to.” It’s also important to be polite in your letter, so make sure to use words such as "please" and "thank you." When these words are used in active sentences rather than passive ones they’ll have a stronger impact. For example, instead of writing “Won’t you please support our very important cause?” write, “Please give what you can to help….(insert what your organization does here).”
4. Format appealing phrases and quotes in bold, italics and underlining. Draw attention to the most compelling statements in your fundraising letter by formatting the text to guide the readers’ eyes. For example, make your most powerful sentences and quotes stand out by centering them. Make sure to leave plenty of eye-pleasing white space around these sentences. Use italics, bold font, and underlining to specifically ask for money in the donation letter. As you write your fundraising appeal letter, ask yourself this: If the lines that I have formatted to grab attention were the only lines that the donor had time to read, would he or she have be moved to give?
5. Keep your fundraising letter short. Two pages should be ample space to tell a story, explain why the charity needs financial support and close by making the official ask. You want to hold the reader’s attention long enough for them to get to the formal request for a donation.
6. Be specific and always make it easy for readers to donate. Do you need cash? Are you asking them to volunteer their time? Are you looking for a donation of products? Do you need donors to clean out their closets and donate old clothes? If you don’t tell your readers precisely what you need, don’t plan on meeting your fundraising goal. It’s that simple.
To make giving super easy and convenient, include a tear-off form at the end of your fundraising letter that gives people the option to donate different amounts of money. Provide information about charitable tax receipts being issued. Make sure that your fundraising letter includes a contact name and phone number, website or email for donors who would like more information or want to give by phone, fax or online.
7. Add a postscript. Like the compelling phrases and quotes that you highlighted throughout your letter, a post script or “P.S.” note at the end of your letter is critical to you’re the success of your fundraising letter. It's one last call to action and if well written, should encapsulate the purpose of your letter while propelling readers to reach out and connect with your charitable cause.
When you receive a fundraising letter, do you read it or toss it?
© 2016 Sadie Holloway