Medieval monks teach us a thing or two about fundraising

How much has fundraising changed over the last few years?

How about the last few centuries?

Here’s a great post at Queer Ideas that shows us A medieval “course” in writing an appeal.

Some Cistercian monks in Austria around 1350 had to raise money from royal and noble patrons, and they recorded what it took to write an effective fundraising letter. Here’s their outline:

  • Salutation. Give greetings and praise. Make tactful recognition of the reader’s rank and virtues.
  • Exordium. An introduction where you lead in to the subject of the letter.
  • Narration. Where you set the stage with a description of the problem you are attempting to resolve.
  • Petition. Now you detail what you want the reader to do.
  • Conclusion. Bring the letter to a graceful end with a form of “perotation” to describe the impact of the gift in a way that will inspire passion and enthusiasm.

Not bad.

You could use this outline in your own fundraising today and do pretty well. The only real change I’d consider would be to have the “petition” happen earlier and often. Because paper is a lot less expensive than vellum!


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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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About the blogger

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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