How to Write a Successful Fundraising Appeal Letter

Spring is the season when we feel optimistic about raising new money. And many organizations link their spring appeal letters to themes such as Mother’s Day or tax day.

This year, with the economy in a downturn, you need to be extra strategic and focused when writing and developing your fundraising appeal letter. Now, more than ever, it’s important that the letter speaks to the organization’s passion and impact as well as the desires and motivations of the donors.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can create an extra special and very successful fundraising appeal letter this year.

  1. Understand the audience that you are writing for and make a distinction between existing donors and ones that you are prospecting. With existing donors you’ll want to emphasize their past support and how critical their future support is. With new donors spend more time introducing the organization and how they can make an impact.
  2. Explain the benefits to the donor, don’t just appeal for money. Most donors will contribute because it makes them feel good to help others, but sometimes they expect to receive a gift as part of their gift (such as a free book or a hand-made card).
  3. Make the letter exciting and passionate. Tell stories and/or include quotes from the people you’re helping to elicit the donor’s emotions. Make the letter interesting by underlining or highlighting key words.
  4. Look at the whole package and not just the appeal letter. Make sure the envelope looks enticing so the donor will WANT to open it. And, if possible, handwrite the envelopes and include a REAL stamp. Include a return envelope and reply form.
  5. Don’t worry about the length of the letter. If the donor is interested, she will read it no matter how long it is. Write the letter as long as you think it takes to really tell your story.
  6. Always portray a sense of urgency without crisis when asking for money. The competition is too stiff not to tell the reader the critical needs you have and the impact their money will make NOW.
  7. Proofread, Proofread, and Proofread. Always have an editor or two review your letter. Remember to avoid the use of abbreviations and acronyms.
  8. Personalize the letter. Do not address the letter “Dear Sir.” Make sure you address the letter to a specific person and write a little note on top of the first page of the letter that says something like “Thanks for your previous support”, “or “Have a great spring.”
  9. Follow up the direct mail appeal letter with a phone call from your board members and/or volunteers. This will greatly increase the success rate of the mailing and if the donor or prospect knows the person making the call then your success rate will increase even more.
  10. Make sure you follow up within 48 hours of a gift with a thank-you note or phone call to show your appreciation.

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