Writing effective fundraising letters can seem like a daunting task. Where do you start? What do you talk about? How do you ask for donations? All of these questions can seem like a huge hurdle to sending out a fundraising appeal. That’s why GivingMail is here to help. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to write your best fundraising letter so that you can get started bringing in donations for your cause today. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Writing Your Fundraising Letters
- Fundraising Letter Best Practices
- Best Fundraising Letters: Examples & Templates
- Sending Your Fundraising Letters
Ready to jump in? Let’s get started!
Writing Your Fundraising Letters
The purpose of a fundraising letter is to drive donations to your cause. As you write your letter, you should be asking yourself constantly whether what you’re saying is the most likely information to entice donors to give.
Each piece of additional information in your solicitation should be adding to the story of why the donor needs to give to your organization now. We’re going to help you learn how to write a best-in-class fundraising appeal so that you can maximize your donations and do the most to support your cause.
How to Start Your Letter
Getting started can feel like the hardest part of doing anything. Writing a fundraising letter is no different. Here are some easy rules to follow to kick off your letter and get you going on the right path.
Always start your letter with a salutation. The best options here are personal – dear “name” for example. Addressing a donor by name is the easiest way to get them to keep reading. If all you have is an address from someone who has donated in the past, “dear friend” works as a fill-in.
People have short attention spans, so you need to capture the readers’ focus quickly.
One easy way to do this is to offer some data about the scope of your cause. Give the donor information that gets them to realize just how big of an issue your cause is without getting too into the statistics. One high-level piece of information is ideal. For example, you can draw the reader in by telling them how many millions are affected by what you’re trying to do.
A simple question is another great attention-grabbing opening to get your reader interested. A few easy question starters to consider are “have you ever…?” or “did you know…?”. Just make sure that the question is relevant to the rest of the letter and to your organization.
What to Include in a Fundraising Letter
Now, to the meat of the letter. Fundraising letters have to get a lot of information to recipients in a short format. How are you supposed to know what to write about and what not to? Here are the pieces you need to include in your letter to get the most out of your appeal.
When someone reads a fundraising letter, they need to be able to understand what your organization does at a basic level. For example, if you rescue animals, let them know that. Alternatively, if you support homeless individuals, make that clear. If your letter is trying to bring support for your organization, make sure that the reader knows what their support is going to do.
When you’re doing this, it’s important to make the donor the center of the story.
If your organization saved 10,000 dogs last year, phrase it to give credit to the donor: “Your support helped save 10,000 dogs last year.” The donor needs to be the hero in all of your communications.
It’s important to make the reader engage on a personal level too. Give an example of what someone affected by your cause goes through. This doesn’t need to be long, but by bringing an individual story into your letter, the issue becomes more personal to your donor. If you can get the donor to relate to your cause or those affected by it, you drastically increase the chances of receiving a donation from them.
Visually Engaging Images
Relevant and engaging images can help to drive the importance of your cause and bring the stories that you’re sharing to life. One or two well-placed images can help connect the reader to your cause and drastically improve responses to your fundraising letter. When they say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” they aren’t lying. Using pictures that resonate with the reader is a surefire way to raise their interest in the work your organization is doing.
As we talked about for the salutation, personalization in a fundraising letter helps to grab and keep the reader’s attention. One simple way to personalize your appeal is to use the donor’s name multiple times throughout the letter.
People like to be acknowledged, so referencing somebody’s past donations can go a long way to getting another donation. If you have details (i.e. we really appreciated your support at Event X and need you now more than ever) use them, but even if all you know is that somebody gave a donation in the past, that will help too. The more personally connected the recipient feels, the more likely they are to follow your call to action. Name, donation history, volunteer work, or event attendance are just some of the information you can use to build a more personal connection with each recipient of your fundraising letter.
Call to Action
A clear call to action might be the single most important piece of a fundraising letter. Make sure that whoever is receiving this letter knows EXACTLY what you want from them. One of the biggest mistakes here is trying to cover all bases with a lot of different calls to action. Avoid confusing your donor and tell them the one thing you want them to do – usually, this is asking for a monetary gift. However, your fundraising letters can be used to bring in donations, ask for volunteer time, or inform supporters about event sign-ups as well.
You can ask the same call to action multiple times to improve results. The call to action can even be written into the letter at some point; “your donation of $25, $50, or even $100 can…” This suggests to the donor what you want from them AND lets them know what impact their donation can have through your organization.
Fundraising Letters: Best Practices
Now that you understand the basics of a great fundraising letter from top to bottom, it’s important that you know some of the best practices as well. These small tips will ensure that you’re getting the best possible results from the appeals you send. If you can incorporate all of these guidelines into your letter, you’ll be all set to maximize the impact of your fundraising appeal.
Keep your Fundraising Letter Short and to the Point
Keeping it short and sweet is almost always the right choice. At its core, your letter should convince the donors of 3 things.
If you can get those 3 points across and include a clear call to action, donations will follow:
- Your cause isn’t just worthy of support, but the most worthy of all causes that a donor is faced with.
- Their support is needed urgently. It’s easy to convince someone that your cause is important, but make sure they know that the help is needed now.
- Your organization is solving the problem. The donor should know that giving to you is going to lead to action for the cause.
Personalize Your Letter as Much as Possible
Personalization is key. The more personal the letter is, the more the donor feels like you know and care about them. Use their name and other information you have to improve your copy, your ask, and your results. Start a sentence or paragraph midway through the letter with their name to keep their attention. People have strong connections to their names – referencing it once or twice could be the difference between them setting the letter aside and sending a donation.
If a donor has a history with your organization, let them know that you know and appreciate that support. This can be a simple call-out box showing their annual donation history near the top of the letter, or a more subtle reference such as, “over the years you’ve made our work possible, and we need you now more than ever.”
Sign Your Letter Every Time
Adding a signature and a sign-off on your letter helps the donors know that it’s coming from someone real and gives the letter credibility. This signature should be from an individual leader at your organization rather than the organization as a whole. It can give a face/name to your organization that a donor might connect with.
An individual’s signature is an easy way to give donors confidence that their gift is going to an accountable organization.
Make Your Fundraising Letter Easy to Read
You don’t want your potential donor to strain reading your letter. Keep it simple. When you’re writing, use widely known vocabulary with shorter sentences. The paragraphs should be short and in an easy-to-read font that’s no smaller than 12 point.
Keeping the reading level lower helps make the information you’re sharing easier to digest and helps to keep the letter to the point. If somebody is struggling to read what you sent them, they probably aren’t going to keep reading or acting on your call to action.
Your visuals and formatting should be on the simpler side too. Readers don’t want to be overwhelmed. Make it as effortless as possible to get your reader from top to bottom of your letter.
Always End With a Thank You!
Thank your donor for their past/future support and acknowledge how much your organization needs them. Saying thank you can go a long way to keeping donors happy and giving more in the future. Imagine how you feel when somebody thanks you for something that you did. Give your donor that same feeling. Your organization depends on donors’ support, so make sure they understand your appreciation.
The Best Fundraising Letters: Examples and Templates
Different Types of Fundraising Letters for Nonprofits
Nonprofits need to communicate with their donors for a number of reasons. You could be asking for donations, sharing event details, or just saying thank you. We’ve put together some templates for you to get started with whatever communication you need to send.
Standard Fundraising Letter Template
If you’re wondering how to start your fundraising letter, we’ve put together a general template to follow that will put you on the right track toward creating your campaign. Our standard fundraising letter template includes prompts and formatting so that by the time you finish, you have a best-in-class fundraising letter to mail your donors.
GivingMail also offers the ability to design directly on this template in our on-site editor so that you can design and mail in as few steps as possible!
How to Send Your Fundraising Letters
When it comes to printing and mailing your appeals, you have options. For example, you can print and mail at home or find a local print shop. These take your focus from your organizations’ cause and can be expensive in time and money.
That being said, the easiest way to send fundraising letters to your donors is with GivingMail! We take all the hassle out of printing and mailing so that all you have to do is wait for the donations to start coming in. Plus, GivingMail is cheaper than the ink and envelopes required for printing at home with significantly less effort.
Creating fundraising appeals can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you just follow along with our templates, step-by-step tutorials, and best practices, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a fundraising expert in no time.
We recognize that the most important fundraising metric is how much money is coming to your organization, and we hope to be doing our part in getting you the most. If you have any questions or want to know more about the nonprofit fundraising space, our team at GivingMail is always happy to help!
For more information, be sure to check out our other informational resources:
- 5 Enticing Ways to Catch your Donors’ Attention: The biggest task in any fundraising campaign is successfully grabbing, and keeping your donors’ attention. Read up on our five top strategies for doing so with this guide.
- Essential Steps for a Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Campaign: If your organization relies on charitable gifts, you likely understand the importance behind strategic fundraising. Take a look at our step-by-step guide to ensuring an effective fundraiser for any nonprofit.
- The Power of Direct Mail: Direct mail is often overlooked as a powerful fundraising method for organizations of all shapes and sizes. Find out how to maximize its potential with our help in this guide.