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Write An Effective Donation Request Letter For Your Silent Auction With These Tips

Author: Adie M.

The most prolific charities in the U.S. all understand the art of writing a silent donation request letter. After all, whether you’re hosting a good, old-fashioned silent auction at your premises, or have chosen to broaden your reach with silent auction software, it all starts with securing donations. This means that you have to send out donation request letters to your donor base. 

The humble donation letter is a time-honored tool in the charity fundraising arsenal, and any seasoned nonprofit employee will tell you that these letters need to be written in a very particular way. 

How to write a silent auction donation request letter

The ABCs of Writing a Compelling Silent Auction Donation Request

Here is a guide to writing the perfect silent auction donation request letter including steps, language, and the important information to include.

Open with a personal greeting 

Ideally, use the full name of the recipient. General greetings such as 'to whom it may concern' or 'dear sir/madam' seldom hit the mark. 

Get right to the point 

Tell them that you are in need of auction items for a silent auction. Then go on to share more information on the event in question, and how you (the writer) factor into the equation. 

For example, 'I am a volunteer at Charity ABC, and we are currently trying to secure donations of items that can go under the hammer at a silent auction during our annual fundraiser, which will take place on the 17th of March.’ 

Share more info on the charity itself

Now that your reader knows what you are looking for, you can take a little time to explain what the charity does and why this work is important in the community. 

Don't ramble on, however - keep it short and simple. Imagine that you only had the space of an elevator ride between two floors to explain to someone what the charity does. 

Create context for the auction

Explain why the auction is vital to the success of the charity, and mention past successful events and how the funds went on to benefit the recipients if you can.

If the person you are contacting has donated to this event, or another, before, now is a good time to thank them for their previous contribution. 

Share the WIIFM (‘what’s in it for me’)

Tell your reader how they can benefit from donating, e.g. a tax rebate, the opportunity to receive exposure on your list of donors, free tickets to the event, etc. 

Say thank you

Always thank your letter recipient for their time. 

Share your call to action

Make it as simple as possible for your reader to respond to your request. If you are sending it by email, you could include a hyperlink to a form where they can submit their donation information. Or, if you are sending a printed missive, you could add a form that can be completed and mailed back, with all the details required to do so. 

Use an official letterhead

Using an official letterhead helps to provide some credibility to your silent auction donation request letter.

Writing a letter to donors

Important Notes on Language for your Silent Auction Donation Request Letter

The language you use in a donation request letter is very important. You want the content to be emotive enough to draw in the reader, but you don’t want to lean over into ‘feel sorry for us’ territory. This is a fine line to walk, but there are ways of finding the sweet spot.

Know your demographic

It helps to know your target demographic. Depending on the nature of your cause, and the people and businesses that tend to donate to your nonprofit on a regular basis, you may find that you need to craft two or three different donation requests using different tones of voice. 

For instance, say two of your main donor pools are older females and young entrepreneurs. These two groups are unlikely to respond favorably to the same approach and tone of voice in a silent auction donation request letter. 

As a rule of thumb, older females prefer more formal diction and respond to references to how a donation can help an individual in particular. Young entrepreneurs, on the other hand, like a more informal, entertaining tone of voice, and like to know how a donation would benefit a community. 

It helps to bear these distinctions in mind when penning a silent auction donation request letter because, in the famous words of Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” 

Mr. Mandela was referring to different African languages when he said this, but it also applies to tones of voice and linguistic approach. 

Top Tip For Writing Your Silent Auction Donation Request

If at all possible, find a local copywriter who is willing to donate their time to your cause to assist you with writing your silent auction donation request letters. 

Freelancers welcome the chance of getting a tax rebate and there are many who are charitable enough to support a worthy cause. In fact, you may already have one on your donor database!

Silent Auction Donation Request Letter Checklist

Here is a handy checklist of information that should always be included on a silent auction donation request. Go through your letter once you have it written to check that each of these elements is in place: 

  • A personal greeting (check the spelling of the name more than once!)
  • The particulars of the event for which you require silent auction donations. 
  • More information on who you are (keep it short) and what the charity does (longer, but still very concise). 
  • How the letter recipient stands to benefit from donating to your cause. 
  • Thank your reader for their time. 
  • Tell them how they can contribute if they should wish to (make it as easy as possible!). 

Donation request letter

The Bottom Line

It’s not all that difficult to write a compelling silent auction donation request letter when you view the letter from the recipient’s point of view. 

When you take care to craft it using the right steps, language, and important information, the odds of securing attractive donation items for your silent auction vastly improve.