Can you believe it’s October already? The time to send out your year-end fundraising appeals will be here before you know it.
Even in this digital age, it is the direct mail appeal that catches donors’ attention. Persuasive writing convinces people to make a donation, but writing good copy can be hard.
Here are five tips for writing a year-end fundraising appeal letter that compels your donors to give — and give generously.
1. Use “You” and Personalization
An appeal letter is meant to be from one individual to another, and the most powerful way to engage your reader is by appealing directly to him or her. Using “you” and “I” makes your letter more personal. It’s also important to personalize your letter by using the donor’s name in the salutation. Stay away from “Dear Friend” if this is a donor who has given in the past.
2. Grab Attention in the First Sentence and Paragraph
The average reader will only spend seconds skimming a fundraising appeal letter before deciding what to do with it — and you don’t want that decision to be throwing it in the trash. Therefore, your first sentence and opening paragraph need to be strong enough to draw donors into your letter. Appeal to their emotions from the start, keeping it short and powerful.
3. Tell a Story that Appeals to Donors’ Generosity
People make the decision to give based on emotions, and justify it with logic. One of the best ways to tap into donors’ sense of generosity is to use stories that show the difference your organization is making in the world thanks to them. The goal is to connect donors with your mission and your results in an emotional way. Use facts and statistics to support your case.
What story do you tell? First, one story creates a greater impact than three stories. Trying to address multiple subjects can confuse donors. Second, choose a story that connects back to the importance of your donors. What have their gifts enabled your organization to accomplish?
4. Write in Plain English
As you begin writing your fundraising letter, remember its real purpose — to raise money, not to win a literary award. Keep your writing simple and straightforward.
- Use compact words and short sentences.
- Avoid jargon and complicated phrases.
- Minimize the use of adjectives and adverbs.
- Don’t use abbreviations or acronyms.
- Repeat key words and phrases.
Keep the tone of the letter conversational and the language easy to understand. Studies show that the best letters are written on a fifth- or sixth-grade level. Make your letter easy to read, and donors won’t stop reading it!
5. State a Clear Call to Action
Your donor has read your letter — What do you want him or her to do now?
Since the purpose of most fundraising appeals is to ask for money, be sure you ask clearly, explicitly, and repeatedly. Don’t ask for generic “support.” Don’t bury your ask at the end of a sentence or paragraph — lead with it. Ask for a specific amount based on the donor’s giving history (another great example of personalization).
Effective fundraising letter writing is part art, part science. If you are struggling with your appeal letters and want to make the most of year-end fundraising opportunities, there is still time to get help. But don’t wait too long — November is right around the corner.
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