What’s in a great fundraising letter

You could use this as a fundraising copywriting checklist: This post at the Hilborn Blog, Twenty things you should know before planning your next direct response campaign includes a very handy list: Components of a great letter.


  • Make your appeal letter optically pleasing and inviting to read.
  • Write small paragraphs and short sentences. Make use of image.
  • Be conversational and informal.
  • Feature an emotional story that personalizes your organization or cause.
  • Thank your donor. Then thank them again.
  • Recap what the last donation accomplished. Explain what the next donation will achieve.
  • Attribute organizational achievements to donor support.
  • Try to relate monthly giving and donation levels to an outcome.
  • Ask for support up front, in the middle and at the end of your letter.
  • Don’t forget the P.S., support the ask!

I’d add one item to this list:


  • Have a clear, specific, understandable, compelling call to action. Make sure the donor knows exactly what you want her to do. And it should be something she already wants to do anyway.


Comments

2 responses to “What’s in a great fundraising letter”

  1. I once wrote a fundraising letter that generated more donations (greater % response & higher average $) than the disease-based charity ever got before.
    I included a $1 bill. (At the time in Canada, where the client was based, they had a $1 bill.)
    I mentioned in the letter that “time was money, so here’s a buck to read my letter.”
    I also asked the donors to send the $1 back with their donation.
    And finally, in the PS I wrote, “And if you can’t see your way to make a donation at this time, please keep the $1. You never know when you might need it.”
    Old letter pulled 2% response with $40 average donation. My letter pulled 10% response with $145 average donation.
    Peter T. Britton
    The Write Answers

  2. I once wrote a fundraising letter that generated more donations (greater % response & higher average $) than the disease-based charity ever got before.
    I included a $1 bill. (At the time in Canada, where the client was based, they had a $1 bill.)
    I mentioned in the letter that “time was money, so here’s a buck to read my letter.”
    I also asked the donors to send the $1 back with their donation.
    And finally, in the PS I wrote, “And if you can’t see your way to make a donation at this time, please keep the $1. You never know when you might need it.”
    Old letter pulled 2% response with $40 average donation. My letter pulled 10% response with $145 average donation.
    Peter T. Britton
    The Write Answers

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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