Bristol Organizations

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10 Steps to Create a Fundraising Appeal Letter That Brings in the Money
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Gail Perry


Can you write an amazing fundraising appeal letter? It’s one of the most basic skills for every fundraiser.


A fundraising appeal letter is both art and science.

And thanks to tons of research, you can find out now – from careful testing – what works best with donors today.


If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know that every fall, I devote time to helping you craft profitable fundraising appeals and campaigns.


My goal is to help you grow and succeed as a fundraiser and nonprofit leader — and to bring in tons of generous gifts always!


Creating a KillerAppeal Letter
These tips are from our Killer Appeal Letter Intensive a couple of weeks ago.


I was so impressed with guest presenters Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising, and Leah Eustace of Blue Canoe Philanthropy, that I wanted to share these with you today.


They shared basic and advanced strategies for getting a stronger response from fundraising appeal letters.  If you want the recordings from the Intensive, you can click here and get set up for success this fall!


And here’s a little video on the topic I recorded for you too:


10 Steps to an Appeal Letter that Brings In the Money.


1.Write a simple, emotional letter. Leah says that the objective of your direct mail is to touch your donor’s heart, not their brain. The decision to give is made in an emotional place, not a logical one. Long words, jargon, and technical language are like speed bumps along the way to a gift. Remove the speed bumps.
Keep your letter easy to understand. Leah’s written much more on the subject here.


2.  Use a short attention grabbing first sentence. See if you can write an opening sentence this strong:
“This is the most difficult letter I have ever written in the 10 years I have been the executive director of your domestic violence center. 


3. Include copy that: tells a story or presents a problem and a solution and/or presents your offer along with benefits and details


What’s your offer? That’s what you are clearly asking donors to fund.


It’s got to be something interesting, urgent and exciting. It’s got to be specific. It’s got to have urgency. It’s got to have emotion and passion.


4. A longer fundraising appeal letter will do better than a shorter letter. Leah reminds us again that we are not your donor.


Yes, we fundraisers hate long letters, but our donors love them. Every time Leah has tested a short letter (one sheet, two sides, or less) versus a long letter (two sheets, four sides, or more), the long letter has outperformed the short letter.


5. Be sure to include a call to action. Such as:  “use the envelope and give today!”


You need to explicitly tell your donor – in the letter – what you want her to do. You can tell your donors clearly to please “send in a generous contribution quickly.”


6. Make your appeal letter donor-centered. We talked about this a couple of weeks ago.


How do you pull it off? Use the word “you” whenever possible. AND . . .  get rid of the words “we” and “us.”


I know, it’s hard to do, but it makes the donor happy to read your letter – and happy she is a part of your cause.


Such as, “if you make this gift, you’ll be able to help a kid in Africa have new hope for a healthy life.”


7. Use a deadline to create urgency. Having a deadline will promote a faster and more likely response from your donor. You have to give her a reason to give and to give NOW.


Tell her time is running out to help the kids or people you help, or that your matching challenge gift only is in effect for another 2 weeks.


8. Make your fundraising appeal letter all about the ask. That’s the point of the letter, isn’t it? You need to say why – over and over – someone should make a gift.


Can you “ask” and give a good reason for the donor give? And can you do it several times in your letter?


To me, that may be the absolute most important thing your letter needs to accomplish!


Add a heartfelt PS (Post Script). Your PS is prime real estate! Did you know that the donor will open your letter and read the the PS first? So make your PS work for you. It could:


Restate your offer – (the kids will get your help now), Remind about the deadline, Make a bonus offer (your gift will be matched!)


Or it could be about something else you want to highlight.


10. Test, test, test your fundraising appeal letter. Never miss an opportunity to test something in direct mail.
If you can be confident you’ll get 100 or more responses in each of your test groups, then your test will be statistically valid. Leah said she often hears that testing is too expensive.  But with advances in printing technology, that’s no longer the case.


You can also consider testing teasers on your outer envelope, and many other elements of your package.


BOTTOM LINE: Here’s how to nail your fundraising appeal letter.

Use this terrific template to lay out your own fundraising appeal letter. And let me know how you do!


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