Writing a Successful Fundraising Letter

If you're going to write a letter to somebody asking for money, it has to be exceptionally well-worded, thought out and tactful. When you were in college and spent all your allowance on beer, and needed to write a letter home to mom to ask for more book money, you knew you had to tread on water and write the best letter of your life.

Know Your Audience

A generic “we need more funds” letter is rarely very effective. You have to tailor your words to suit your target audience. Are you writing to college alumni? Concerned parents? Politicians, corporations, or blue collar workers? The tone of your letter must change to suit.

In fact, in many cases it works best to create not one, but actually several letters designed to target different subgroups of your list. Send one letter to previous donors, a separate one to potential contributors, and still a third one to those in your inner circle.

Each audience will have different concerns. Those who have made contributions in the previous year will want to know about the progress you've made in the interim period, while potential donors who haven't contributed yet may be more interested to know about some of the new programs you have on the agenda for the coming year.

People in your inner circle are much more likely to respond to the need for funds relating to day-to-day expenses, like office supplies, computers and storage space.

Who Should Write It?

You can always tell a letter that has been written by a committee. It's just not that good, tries to say everything at once and ends up saying nothing. While it's fine to allow multiple individuals and committees within your group to have input into the content of the letter, avoid situations where drafts of the letter continue to circulate from person to person, with each one taking a stab at revision.

One person, and one person only should be the “point person” who listens to the concerns of all parties, and then takes that all into account and creates the letter. Of course, follow-up and proofreading is essential.

One or two revisions is appropriate, but no more. The writer of the letter should be skilled as a writer, as well as intimately familiar with the needs of the organization. You may even wish to consider hiring a professional writer or public relations firm to create the letter for you.


We live in a busy society, and people have limited attention spans, especially when it comes to solicitations. Keep it short, ideally within one page, and definitely no more than two. Don't try to include everything in one letter. Do, however, include a path to additional information.

Within the text of the letter, be sure to let people know where they can find out more. If you're describing a particular program, summarize it briefly and explain two or three of the major benefits, and then let them know they can read more about it on your web site.

When you are creating the supporting material (which you will make available elsewhere, and not include in the letter itself), take the same careful approach as with the letter itself.


Don't be afraid to make your letter eye-catching. Rather than just a simple letter in plain text on your organization's letterhead, work in a graphic or two, or a photograph that clearly shows the good that you are doing. This will cost a little extra in terms of printing, but it will be well worthwhile.

If for example, you're asking for funds for a mission in Cambodia, embed a picture of that mission within the text. If you're asking for money to support a high school sports team, include a group shot of the team from a recent game.

As for the text itself, keep your type fonts plain and simple. Avoid the flashy type fonts, script fonts and cartoon fonts, because these are distracting and more difficult to read. Keep the text itself in black and white, and make any photographs to embed color.

Avoid using all capital letters for emphasis–it's distracting. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, use italics instead.

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