Donation request letters and templates are a very effective way to raise money for your nonprofit. While many nonprofits first consider email and other online channels, direct mail continues to be the true workhorse of fundraising. There is just something uniquely powerful about holding a letter in your hand that lends itself to powerful fundraising campaigns and significant revenue.
The best donation request letters are personal, grab and maintain your attention, and provide the space to be able to tell your nonprofit’s story in a compelling way that inspires contributions. Yet crafting an effective donation request letter can sometimes feel overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t need to do it alone!
Our fundraising experts stand ready to help you create and mail a successful donation request letter and bring in the funding you need for your cause. The team at GivingMail has over 70 years of experience in fundraising, working with hundreds of the world’s top charities and raising millions of dollars for missions like yours.
That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to help you craft a powerful donation request letter in a few easy steps, and get your appeals in donors’ mail boxes within days. Specifically, we’ll cover the following:
- Drafting Your Donation Request Letters
- Sending Your Donation Request Letters
- Following Up On Donation Request Letters
This guide is designed to help you whether you are looking to write your first-ever fundraising appeal or to strengthen the results of donation request letters and templates you’ve been using for years. Here, we’ve included information, best practices, and tips as well as example donation request letters and templates for you to use. Let’s get started!
Drafting Your Donation Request Letters
As you start thinking about writing your donation request letter, remember that these direct mail appeals are most effective when they feel personal. Even though you may be sending the same letter to hundreds or thousands of people, you want it to read like a letter one person wrote to another.
How can you accomplish this? Here are a few tips:
- Watch your tone. Be sure to stick to a warm and friendly tone. It should read like a conversation.
- Personalize your appeals. You want to use personalization whenever possible. Use the donor’s name throughout the letter, and reference the donor’s previous giving and any other information you know about them.
- Tell a story. Stories are incredibly powerful. Humans are naturally wired to respond to stories, as they connect with us in a way that no other communication method can. The right story has the ability to connect emotionally with donors, vividly describe the need for support, and add a sense of urgency to contribute today. Plus, stories are memorable.
- Include a call to action. You want to make sure your call to action is clear and specific. Your donors should know exactly what you are asking them to do and why. Include suggested giving amounts to make it personal and even easier for donors to say yes.
Before you put pen to paper, think through how you will structure the letter and what content you will use. Our template below is a great starting point!
Donation Request Letter Template
Dear [First (or preferred) name],
[Attention-grabbing first line to pique the reader’s interest.]
[A little bit about the work your nonprofit does.]
[Acknowledgement of existing relationship with donor and their previous support.]
Today, I am asking you for $[average donation size] or $[slightly larger donation size] to [what gift will accomplish.]
[Share a story about an individual who was struggling. Describe the problem the individual was facing and how they were helped by your nonprofit.]
[Second ask for donation.]
With your support, we can [refer to your project or mission].
Thank you again for all you do for [nonprofit name] and [summary of mission].
[Name of a well-known leader of nonprofit]
P.S.- [Repeat ask and explain how the reader can make their donation.]
Donation Request Letter Example
December 18, 2020
Pennington Pet Shelter
5 Main Street
Pennington, NJ 08534
Barley was found on the side of the road with a badly damaged leg. A good Samaritan brought this beautiful dog to us here at the Pennington Pet Shelter.
When he arrived, we immediately examined him and realized he had been struck by a vehicle. Barley’s front leg was partially amputated. It was a horrific sight. Our veterinarian fully amputated Barley’s leg to avoid infection.
Barley has been staying with us surrounded by love. He is healing and growing stronger every day. Soon he will be ready to be adopted and find his forever home.
Our animals come to us for different reasons. Some of the reasons are just too awful to share.
But no matter how or why they are here, our passion here at the Pennington Pet Shelter is to make sure every single animal receives the love and care they need, and to find them their perfect forever home.
I know these animals are your passion, too, Carol.
On behalf of the animals that you rescued – THANK YOU for your compassion, your generosity, and for truly making a difference in the lives of these furry friends.
Today I ask you to give again. Your gift of $25 or $50 can go to rescue, feed, house, and give medical care to an animal until it is ready for its forever home. Animals like Barley.
The team here at the Pennington Pet Shelter are just like you. They love animals and can’t stand to see any animal suffering. And they are willing to do whatever it takes. I know you are, too. Every animal that comes to the Pennington Pet Shelter has a different story. But they all need our help and our love. Barley and others just like him depend on you and I.
Will you please make a contribution of $25 or $50 today? Your support will help animals like Barley more than you could ever know.
When animals are in their greatest time of need, we are able to heal them because of YOU! I am so grateful for you. Your caring heart makes such a difference for these creatures.
You make life possible for these beautiful, innocent animals.
Thank you for your continued support,
Executive Director, Pennington Pet Shelter
P.S. You can make your generous gift by mailing in a check using our pre-addressed reply envelope or by completing an online donation at http://www.penningtonpetshelter.com/donate.
Sending Your Donation Request Letters
Now that you have done the hard part—writing the donation request letter—you need to get the appeal printed, assembled, stamped, and in your donors’ hands. Luckily, you have a choice between completing this process on your own or working with an outside partner to get the job done. Let’s explore both options and help you determine which is right for your team:
Taking a DIY approach
If you decide you would like to handle the printing and mailing internally, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Invest in a dependable and high-quality printer. The printing needs to be sharp and easy to read. Otherwise, you risk donors tossing your appeal before ever reading it.
- Make sure to use good quality paper and envelopes. These will stand out in the mail box, look professional and will demonstrate to donors that you appreciated them.
- Include a pre-addressed reply envelope with postage already paid. This will make it even easier for the donor to send their contribution back to you.
- Be mindful of postage weights, rates and regulations so your letters mail as quickly as possible and don’t get held up at the post office.
Finally, be sure you have the time and talent available to handle this internally. This part of the process often takes more time than expected, so it’s a good idea to over-estimate the amount of manpower you think you’ll need. And if you don’t have the team to do so, you can always work with a dedicated direct mail company.
Working with a direct mail partner
There are many benefits of working with a direct mail company to handle the printing and mailing of your fundraising letters. For one thing, an outside company tends to bring years of experience to the table, along with valuable insights into what typically works and does not work in the mail.
These external teams are also experts in mail production and delivery, and will produce quality fundraising packages that get into the hands of the donor as quickly as possible.
Many nonprofits choose to work with outside direct mail companies. While you will certainly need to pay them for their work and insights, you will ultimately save money on printing and postage because they conduct their sales in larger volumes.
Ultimately, nonprofits often find that a direct mail partner is well worth the cost because it saves their team valuable time and eliminates a lot of stress and worry. Then, that money, time, and manpower can be reinvested into what really matters—your mission.
Following Up On Donation Request Letters
Believe it or not, your job still isn’t over once you mail your fundraising letter. Why? Because you need to follow up! You might choose to do this with a follow up email, phone call, acknowledgment letter, or a combination of these strategies.
A follow-up letter can be very powerful. It doesn’t need to be long or fancy—just let the donor know you are following up on your previous request, acknowledging their gift if they’ve already donated, and providing any worthwhile updates concerning your campaign. This nudges donors to respond to the initial letter if they haven’t, and keeps your organization at top of mind for longer.
By continuing your communication with donors, you are also laying the foundation for long-term relationships. The follow up is one more way to stay in front of the donor and remind them of the great work their support is enabling your nonprofit to do. Here are two key elements to consider when crafting your donation follow-up letters:
Thanking Your Supporters
After you receive a donation, the next step is to send the donor a thank-you letter. Ideally, you should send this out within 48 hours of receiving the initial contribution, and you should send one to all donors regardless of the amount of their gift. Then, be sure that each thank-you letter is personalized with the donor’s name, gift amount, and date.
Most importantly, the thank-you letter should be warm in tone and full of gratitude. Explain to the donor how they made a difference, and how much they are appreciated. Make the donor feel like the hero they are!
Keeping Donors Updated on Progress
You also want to continuously communicate with donors past the conclusion of your fundraising campaign. This will help build and strengthen your relationship with them, and make sure they feel like a critical part of the team.
While you certainly want to continue to send donors fundraising letters, you also want to send donors cultivation mailings that do not ask for money. These follow-up mailings give you the opportunity to not only thank the donor but to share stories about how they are making a difference in the lives of your constituents.
Share information about progress made and new challenges, and of course show your appreciation. Be transparent, clear, full of gratitude, and sincere. If you reached your fundraising dollar goal for your letter-writing campaign, be sure to share that milestone with supporters and let them know that you wouldn’t have made it without their help. If donors gave to fund a particular program, you can send photos and regular updates about how it’s going.
The best donation request letters and templates are personal and use powerful storytelling strategies to connect emotionally with donors. Smart nonprofits know that fundraising appeals can help you build strong relationships with donors and make them feel like the valuable partner they are. And as an added bonus, these appeals often lead to increased giving.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to execute a fundraising strategy that will work for your nonprofit. Plus, the team at GivingMail can provide you with the tools you need to raise more in the most effective way.
If you’re looking to learn more about direct mail and other strategic fundraising efforts, be sure to check out our other educational guides:
- Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations: A Beginner’s Guide. Want to get the word out about your nonprofit? Here’s a great guide to get you started on marketing, full of helpful information, tips, and advice!
- Nonprofit Database Software: The Complete FAQ Guide w/ Tips. Looking for a nonprofit database? This guide will help you understand the most important features to consider, and how to make the most of your software for your nonprofit.
- Nonprofit Fundraising Guide [With FAQ, Strategies, & Tips]. Learn all about the top fundraising strategies and how to put them to work with this resourceful nonprofit fundraising guide.