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How to Write a Fundraising Letter

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Writing a good fundraising letter is not a magical process. With a little practice, you can improve your fundraising letters dramatically but writing a fundraising letter is a process that requires a little planning before actually putting words to paper.

A fundraising letter campaign requires knowledge of the organization for which it is being written. Writing a fundraising letter also requires some understanding of the target audience who will receive the letter.  These areas of consideration represent the starting point and the end point of the process of a fundraising letter campaign. What goes in between is the message – the letter itself.

What, specifically, will any funds raised through the letter accomplish for the public good?  A fundraising letter should directly answer what human need will be fulfilled due to the generosity of the donor. You don’t build a hospital, you establish a healthcare facility that will provide relief of human suffering and improve and extend the lives of people in the community. It will create jobs, be a focus of community pride and stimulate economic growth in the community.

You should ask for an amount in your fundraising letter or at least a range. Why try to sell some body on the value of the work of your nonprofit but not give them the price? Ask for an amount in your fundraising letter and you shall receive.

The fundraising letter should also provide a timeline for a response. “Make your decision now to help before this letter and your opportunity to positively change a life are lost.”  You can also ask for a response “this week” or “by a specific date.”

Make sure there is a way for the donor to easily make a gift. Include a pledge card and a return envelope with your fundraising letter. Some organizations use a postage paid envelope while others imprint “thank your for your additional gift of a stamp” in the corner. I like to make it as easy as possible and use postage paid envelopes in my fundraising letters.

The best fundraising letter campaigns are targeted to smaller groups of people who have some sort of interest or affiliation with your organization or the type charitable services you provide.  A fundraising letter sent to a general category of people will fail to yield meaningful results. 

I have had the most success with fundraising letters no longer than a single sheet of paper. At most I will stretch to the back page to include relevant facts or financial data.  People are hooked in the first paragraph or not at all. The attention span of a typical adult is brief. Write 500 to 750 words as a good target number before a fundraising letter reader will lose interest. To offer additional information about your charity, include your web address in your fundraising letter so that the reader can learn even more if they choose.

Be certain your fundraising letter is targeted, compelling, informative and brief. Ask for a gift, ask for it now and make it easy to respond. When they do respond, treat all donors as if they are the most important you have and thank them in a meaningful way for their gift. Hand-sign the thank you letter.

If you need help with your next fundraising letter campaign, we can help by writing a single letter or planning a complete mailing at a cost-effective rate. Contact us for more information.

* If you arrived here from About.com, this is my business site and while I believe the information contained on letter writing is helpful, I wanted to acknowledge this fact - Rob DeMartinis, Guide to Nonprofit Organizations at About.com.



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