Fundraising Letter Writing 101

Like any introduction, first impressions can make or break your chances. Well the same goes for your fundraising letter campaign. If you are involved with a charity or special cause that needs money – especially if it's a non-profit organization – you depend on the donations of others to help your charity stay alive.

Typically the very first exposure that your potential donors have to your fundraiser is when you put pen to paper and write a fundraising letter. But crafting a fundraising letter that will help generate the adequate funds for your organization is no easy feat – actually its downright misery.

There is a lot of pressure put on the writer of the fundraising letter. After all, the reception it gets can have your potential donors crying in their coffee and writing you an instant check, or on the other end of the spectrum, crumpling up your letter without a second thought and aiming for the trashcan.

So with such an important mission in mind, your fundraising letter needs to be crafted impeccably. But where oh where should you turn?

Below we've outlined some major components of a successful fundraising letter. Follow these steps and you will be the hero, no the literary genius, of your charity organization for years to come.

Give to Get

Here it is right off the bat. This is the painful truth when it comes to fundraising letters. Any donor is initially put off if you write a letter asking for a donation without offering anything in return. It's the hard and cold truth of charity, but realistically no one is willing to part with their hard earned cash for nothing. Take the Humane Society for example.

They always send out small tokens of appreciation, which the potential donor can keep without making a donation I might add, before they ask for money. Those cute little address stickers and cards are the very first thing that pops into your hand when you open the envelope.

Sure, the warm fuzzies are fine after you donate, but think about creative, yet inexpensive, offerings that you can give to loosen those purse strings.

Turn on the Waterworks

As manipulative that you might think it is to play with someone's emotions, that's exactly what you need to do to get someone to write you a check for your charity organization. The trick is to tap into your potential donor's emotions. You know exactly what I mean.

Every single time I hear Sarah McLachlan's tune In the Arms of an Angel and the images of hungry and hurt animals soar across my television screen in an effort to raise money for the SPCA, you bet I have my checkbook open when I feel the tears coming on.

Taping into the emotions of your potential donors is your only hope to set yourself apart from all those other fundraising organizations out there trying to accomplish the same thing. So if you can tap into the guilt, pride, fear, love, sympathy, remorse, pity or gratitude of your potential donors as a writer, you've got their attention and possibly their money.

Tax Breaks

Most successful fundraising organizations have one thing in common – they offer tax breaks to their donors. So not only should you mention the tax benefits in your letter, you should make sure that your charity is registered as a non-profit organization.

There are many, many special causes to choose from, but statistics show that offering a tax redemption to your donors will raise your chances that they will donate, and continue to do so every year.

Your donors are do-gooders

Everyone has their own reasons to donate to a certain charity organization, but I personally donate every year because I want to feel like I am doing some good in the world, and I know I'm not alone! One of the strongest reasons why people give to charities and continue to give each year is to feel good about themselves.

In some way, despite that they yelled at the kid next door and kicked the dog last week, they still want to feel that they made some good, like they had a vital part in the good work being done. Let's face it, most people don't have the time or energy to do the hands-on volunteer work, they would much rather write a check.

So when they offer their financial aid, it's your job to make them feel like they participated in the good that's taking place. So, as a writer, make sure that you let your donors know that they make the work your charity organization does possible.

Show them the statistics

I don't watch the news because it's full of misery and despair. So why would I want to open a fundraising letter that's full of depressing statistics on the number of kids with cancer, or the number of dogs that die of starvation each year? I don't!

But what would really spur me to give, and to feel good about where my money is going is a letter about a terrible situation – starving children, abandoned cats – that has a happy ending in sight.

Use your fundraising letter to draw a verbal picture of the work that your organization has done, and what their money will help you do in the future. Use your words as a reminder of what can be if they donate. Take the time to do your research first.

By that I mean find the statistics that positively outline the work your organization does – e.g. putting clean drinking water in a rural village in Ethiopia, or feeding an abandoned and blind elderly woman who can't otherwise fend for herself.

Your fundraising letter should showcase the good you do and the good that you will continue to do with their support.

Make your objectives clear – very clear!

I know it's hard to swallow that pride and ask for the money. But time and time again, it's proven that people will only give if you ask them too. When you write your fundraising letter keep in mind all the people that the money will benefit… the money isn't for you after all, it's to help support the great work that you're doing to support your charity organization.

So don't beat around the bush. Come right out and say it – “Please donate”. It is also wise to suggest amounts and include a deadline.

Return to Sender

Elvis said it best, and it's true even with potential donors. Sure, I don't mind sending money, but do I ever have a stamp handy? No! That's why including a return envelope with paid postage. Just like me, most people don't have a handy stamp, and if you make it difficult for them to donate – they will forget about it. However if you make it easy, they do it – and right away!

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