Do you know the most common mistake nonprofit organizations and charities make when writing a fundraising letter? They focus too much on supporting their argument for more donations rather than focusing on persuading their donors.
How you deliver your message to donors is important. So, you must ensure your fundraising letter is compelling and persuasive.
If you’re struggling writing your first letter, don’t worry. We’ll provide you with tried and trusted tips to improve your ability to write money-making fundraising letters.
Your letter should tell a story and appeal to your readers’ emotions. How you achieve this is the challenge. Below are the common elements you need for a powerful and emotional story.
Successful fundraising letters have one common characteristic: they’re donor-centric.
When you’re appealing to people via letters, address them directly. The magic word to use is “you.” Using the word “you” makes the donor feel you’re directly speaking to them. And this helps break down the barrier between your donors and your organization.
Also, when possible, address the donor by name. This makes them feel special and valued. And if it’s not possible to use their name, try and find one characteristic your donors have in common. For example, “Dear Golfers.”
Why a story? Stories help you gain your donor’s attention and appeal to their emotions. They also help convince donors your fundraising efforts are relevant to their interests.
Ensure your story focuses on the people who need the donor’s assistance. The purpose of focusing on the beneficiaries is to paint a picture of their current problems and suffering.
To make your story even more appealing, directly address your donor’s desires and feelings. For example, appeal to their sense of justice, fears, belief in hope and humanity, etc.
An example of powerful storytelling in a fundraising letter is Bruce Burton’s appeal letter. Bruce asked 24 wealthy men to help cover the costs for 250 Berea College students in 1925.
It’s a 5-page letter in which Bruce carefully weaves his story by outlining the difficult financial circumstances of the students. He also mentions the college’s tough predicament: to turn down over 1500 students or stop providing free education. And he expertly appeals to his readers’ emotions by targeting their sense of justice and fairness and their belief in American patriotism.
The result of Bruce’s fundraising attempt? 100% donation rate.
What are your organization’s mission and goals? Clearly state them. Your mission and goals help build authenticity towards your fundraising event.
Use this opportunity to address your current needs. And tell your readers why you need their assistance to fulfill your mission.
Ensure you help your readers understand how you’ll use their donations and gifts. Show them how this assistance makes a difference in the lives of the beneficiaries.
Don’t forget that people don’t donate because they like your organization. They donate because they believe in your cause.
If you want people to believe in your cause, you have to show them how your cause helps others. Be it people, animals, or other organizations.
Therefore, show your donors exactly how their donations make an impact.
For example, look at this fundraising letter sample by David Ogilvy that helped the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) raise $26,000 in a single night in 1968.
On the second page, David shows how donors will help fund the college education of ethnic minorities in the United States. He also mentions that this financial assistance helps
over half of the students in the colleges taking part in the UNCF program.
The purpose of your fundraising letter is to raise money. Therefore, at the end of your letter, use a compelling call-to-action (CTA) to ask your reader for their donations.
Make your CTA clear so that the reader knows exactly what they should do next. However, don’t go for generic CTAs like ‘donate now.’ They’re clear but they don’t appeal to your audience.
Instead, use the question format. And not just any question format. Use a question format that prompts your audience to say “YES.” To make these types of CTAs even more powerful, appeal to the donors’ emotions.
For example, ‘Will you donate $50 today and give these sick children another chance at life?’
This information won’t help you if you can’t find the right words. So, if you’re stuck, use this fundraising letter template to help you write a compelling and persuasive donation request letter.
Your Organization’s Name
City, State ZIP
Dear [Reader’s Name],
[Start by telling an emotional or inspiring story to capture your reader’s attention. Don’t forget to personalize the story.]
As you probably know, [mention the issues your organization is solving]. We’re actively working to [mention the solutions you’re currently exploring]. But we need your help to improve our outreach efforts by [mention the new solution].
You can help [mention your organization’s goal or mission]. Your urgent support is key in helping us achieve our goals/ mission.
If you can, we’d appreciate it if you’ll consider donating [amount] to help us [mention impact].
Your donation will help [mention affected group], and we’ll use it to [mention expected accomplishments].
To make your donation
Thank you again.
With warm regards/ Sincerely
[Organization leader’s signature]
PS [Reiterate your CTA or add any other information].
Now that you know our top five tips for writing persuasive and compelling fundraising letters, start working on your first draft.
Don’t forget the key to convincing your donors is your ability to appeal to their emotions and how you communicate your ideas. Get it right, and who knows? Your personalized letter might be the thing that makes your donor's day.