How to Write Your Best Fundraising Letter EverTim Ahern | August 9, 2017
Believe it or not, one of the best promotional tactics you can try for your fundraiser is a good old-fashioned fundraising letter. To potential donors or fundraising product purchasers, a well-written letter can come across as personal and cause them to take action. These letters also give you the opportunity to fully communicate the meaning of their contribution to your cause.
However, you want to be careful with this letter as with all its power comes some danger. Be sure you cover all your bases and get your point across in an effective manner. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in figuring this out. Evergreen’s 50 years of fundraising experience has got you covered. Here’s your route to your best fundraising letter ever.
The general layout of the best fundraising letters
1. Overline (optional)
Instead of jumping right into the main content, you can grab reader’s attention with a bold headline. If you’re a Boy Scout, it could be something as simple as “You can help me get to __ destination” or “your contribution will help me earn my __ badge.” If you go this route, make sure to use a larger font that stands out. This will help the message really pop.
The introduction of your fundraising letter should help the reader quickly understand the context of the letter. Without this clarity, you risk readers who are disoriented and don’t quite understand what you’re asking.
At the same time, you need to maintain interest. Make sure you’re delivering these points with some sort of attention grabber. This could be a story, an interesting statistic or a question.
Here comes the most important part. This is where you can illustrate to your reader your need and why they should care about it. It also is the content that should lead them to understand how they can make a difference. Include a description of your fundraiser, why it matters to you and why you’re writing to them specifically. You can even include a sense of urgency to ensure they don’t put off their contribution and end up forgetting about it.
You can also highlight your need for your reader’s help by letting them know exactly how a donation makes a difference. According to causevox, the American Cancer Society has done so with this image:
This aspect of the letter can do more than you think. First, it can thank them in advance for their time in just reading your letter and donating. It can also subtly encourage them to donate since you’re already thanking them for it. Lastly, you can again emphasize how important this gift is.
5. P.S. (optional)
Another optional yet notable aspect to work with is the postscript. This is often a highly-read part of a letter so if you can optimize it, it’s impactful. You could use it as a way to keep things lighthearted, ending with a personal note or joke. You could also remind them of the donation’s significance with a fun fact about your organization.
6. How they can reply
It’s proven time and again in marketing and advertising that people need to be reminded of the action they should take. Leave them with the address to which they can reply, the website they can go to or who they should call.
Image source: Badger Group
Guidelines for tone of best fundraising letters
1. Be straightforward and clear
The main goal of your fundraiser letter is to generate awareness regarding your cause and to inspire the reader to take action.
With this in mind, don’t get too wordy. Once you’re done writing out your letter, go back over it and remove any unnecessary fluff. People are busy and will likely want to get to your point quickly. To do so, The Balance recommends using fewer adjectives and adverbs and avoiding acronyms and abbreviations.
Additionally, though it’s hard to ask for money directly, you need to be clear about what you’re asking for. As The Balance puts it, “Be specific when asking for money. Asking for ‘support’ is too general and abstract.” If you’re too shy or vague, people may neglect your request for help as it didn’t sound urgent or feel as needed as it is.
2. Know to whom you’re writing
One of the biggest pieces to this puzzle is appealing to your specific reader. It would save time to write one letter that covers every potential donor, but in the long run, you’ll get more return on your investment if you speak to each reader on a more personal level.
This doesn’t mean writing a unique letter for each recipient, but if you need to add a personal note to the general template or if you can write a couple versions depending on your audience, do so. You’d be surprised at how different these versions will come across if write with your elderly female church member in mind versus your favorite crazy uncle.
3. Give the reader a route and reason to take immediate action
Let’s face it: if we don’t do that thing on our to-do list right away, it tends to get forgotten. Same goes with your fundraiser. If you don’t provide them a direct route to making a donation or purchasing your fundraiser product right away, it’s likely they’ll forget about it. Point them to what they should do, making it easy.
Similarly, if they don’t have a sense of urgency in taking action, they might set down the letter and save it for later. Point out a date that they should get their information sent in by or let them know why you’d rather they contribute now than later. If you ask, it’s more likely you’ll receive.
In the end, your best fundraising letter ever will likely stem from being mindful of these best practices. More than anything, we hope you write like yourself and speak to the hearts of your community so that you can have a successful fundraiser.
For more fundraising tips, download our free Fundraising 101 Guide »