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6 considerations for writing a fundraising appeal letter

August 03, 2021
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If your nonprofit organization is considering refreshing some of your fundraising materials, a strong starting point is your fundraising appeal letter. This letter is a relatively simple way to invite donors to make a first-time or recurring gift, and the general structure can be adjusted and personalized to appeal to each individual recipient. 

The goal of an appeal letter is straightforward: for donors to read it and then make a gift to your organization. To that end, take these considerations into account when you draft and revise your letter:

1. How will you address each fundraising appeal letter?

As you begin your fundraising appeal letter, remember that personalization is key. Donors are much more likely to respond to a letter that begins “Dear [donor name],” than one that begins “Dear valued donor,” or “To whom it may concern.” Addressing recipients by name shows that your nonprofit sees them as individual people rather than just sources of funding.

Some donors will be happy for you to use their first name or even a nickname, while others would prefer a more formal greeting. In your donor database, note the supporter’s preferred name, title, and pronouns to ensure you address each one appropriately.

2. What organizational information will you include?

One of the best ways to get donors on board with giving is to showcase your nonprofit’s strengths in your fundraising appeal letter. While including some statistics can demonstrate your recent successes, this data will be more impactful if you incorporate it into a story that allows donors to connect emotionally with your purpose.

For instance, an animal shelter could use the statistic of having found homes for 200 dogs and cats last year as an example of their success. Telling the story of how a particular dog came to the shelter and received care and then explaining how that dog was one of 200 pets who found a home through that shelter establishes the shelter’s credibility while emotionally inspiring donors to give.

3. How will you format your fundraising letter?

How you write the content of a fundraising appeal letter is just as important as what you write in it. If your copy is concise and easy to read, donors are more likely to read the entire letter and reach the call to action. To improve readability, try these tips:

  • Keep paragraphs short and format any lists with bullet points.
  • Add images related to your organization’s purpose to illustrate the copy and break up the text.
  • Use bold and italics for emphasis where appropriate, but include them sparingly.
  • Including photos, make sure you can print the document on the front and back of one sheet of paper.

Before you finalize your letter, ask another staff member at your organization to read it and provide feedback on both the content and the format. You should also review the spelling and grammar to ensure a polished, professional look. 

4. What will the letter’s call to action look like?

Of course, your fundraising appeal letter’s call to action will be for recipients to donate to your organization. They could do so in a variety of ways, including:

  • Mailing a check in a provided return envelope.
  • Filling out a tear-off pledge form.
  • Using an easy-to-type link to access your online donation page.
  • Scanning a QR code to give from their mobile devices.

Consider choosing two methods for donors to give, one physical and one digital, to provide them with some flexibility. When writing the call to action at the end of the letter, make sure to provide clear instructions on each method while stressing the overall importance of contributing. Additionally, take steps to allow donors to contribute as quickly as possible, such as pre-addressing the return envelope.

5. Who will sign the appeal letters?

In many cases, fundraising appeal letters are signed by a nonprofit’s executive director or board chair. This strategy increases the letter’s credibility and is particularly effective for formal appeals.

However, there are a few situations where having someone else sign would be beneficial. If your organization acquired a major donor through their personal connection to a different staff member or board member, it may be more effective to have the letter come from that person. Also, for a less formal and more emotionally involved appeal, you could ask one of your organization’s beneficiaries or a passionate supporter to sign.

6. How will you distribute the letters?

The five considerations discussed so far apply mostly to direct mail fundraising appeals, which some donors prefer. But others might prefer to receive fundraising letters via email. And some might not read letters at all, instead interacting with your organization through your website and social media.

Many aspects of your fundraising appeal letters could be reformatted using an email template—you’d just need to write even more concisely and include a link to your online donation page as the call to action. You could also reuse the photos, statistics, and stories from your letter in a blog article or social media post to reach even more donors.

Power your appeals with an effective letter

Taking the time to write a new fundraising appeal letter or refresh your nonprofit’s existing one is a worthwhile exercise. You can offer your donors a new angle on your organization’s work, share the impact of their support through storytelling, and bring in even more funding to further your purpose. Streamline your organization’s application of the tips in this guide by investing in fundraising software, that can power your appeals and help you refine your letters even further.

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