The Anatomy of a Successful Appeal Letter

Fundraising letters to mom

Creative fundraising letters are the first thing that people see when they connect with your nonprofit. They are the first impression and an opportunity to engage with potential donors or your constituents.

The Importance of Creative Fundraising Letters

We all know that fundraising campaigns can be successful or not, depending on how well they can reach out to potential donors. Creative fundraising letters help to do just that by presenting the cause, or impact, in a way that is engaging and memorable.

There are five essential questions each appeal needs to answer:

  • Who are you writing to?
  • What do you want to say?
  • What is the tone and emotion of your message?
  • How do you want the donor to feel and act after reading your letter?
  • What is it you’re asking for?

This may seem obvious to you, however, there are countless appeals I see that don’t do these things. There is so much more to take advantage of by injecting a few other components into a letter.

Don’t Do These Three Things

Today we’re taking a deeper dive into the actual design of the classic appeal letter. But before we do, it’s important we look at some things to consider.

Let’s say you’re creating your appeal, and your mom is the target. First, make sure you don’t do these three things:

  • Don’t give her anything else to think about besides making a gift.
  • Don’t use words or images that take her focus away from your story.
  • Don’t make it unbearable to read.


When we think about it, the likelihood of your donors who require readers is probably significantly higher than those who don’t. And mom wants to read your letter, as long as it’s tailored to her. Remember, too, that there can be generational differences in how to best reach your donors when you use direct mail, but for now, let’s focus on your mom.

So let’s take it easy on mom, and add dimensional elements that enhance your letter, to make it readable, and make certain that your ask is clear.

How to Design a Successful Fundraising Appeal so Even Your Mom Will Donate

After reviewing last year’s successful letters with our graphic designers, we incorporated four key elements that you should include in your appeal.

1. Let’s start with the envelope.

Providing a caption or design element to the outside of the envelope will grab their attention. Try personalizing the message so they are engaged immediately. We see it time and time again that successful letters get opened when there is a call to action on the outside of the envelope.

The outside of the envelope is an often overlooked part of any letter. It is crucial to include a strong call to action on the outside of your envelope to compel recipients to open it.

2. Use a larger font.

No one says you have to fit all your text on one page. Use a larger font and take advantage of the back of your page. Using a 14pt font, or larger, will make the appeal more reader-friendly.

The back of the page is the new black. While you’re engaging mom with your impact story, she’s more than happy to read it all the way through. Design your letter to use a larger font and take advantage of both sides of your appeal.

3. Add imagery.

Yes, you can add imagery to a simple letter! Gone are the days of just including your logo. Often we add colorful graphics and images together to get a balanced look.

The goal is to find the right balance between color and white space in your design. The best way to achieve this is by mixing images and graphics with a white space. However, it’s important to keep in mind that balance is more than just the amount of color or white space – there also needs to be variety.

4. Utilize color for call outs.

Finally, your brand provides you with a multitude of colors you can add to your letters. Including color in your letter makes your ask more prominent.

Studies have shown that including color in your letter helps it stand out. In a study by the University of Chicago, they concluded that adding color to text makes it more readable and easier to understand. In another study by the University of Minnesota, they found that certain colors such as red and blue are more eye-catching than white text on a black background.

There you have it! Not only do you have the five essential questions to ask when writing your appeal, but you also have our four creative recommendations for designing successful letters.

If you’ve ever wanted to elevate your appeals to a new level, BCG Connect has the capabilities to design, write, print, and mail your next appeal. Request an estimate today.


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Kathy McConnellKathy McConnell is an experienced direct marketer, content writer, and digital strategist. Driven by results, she takes pride in providing the best innovative strategies possible. As the Marketing Director at BCG Connect, her goals include educating, informing, and inspiring nonprofits and education clients to implement strategic marketing into their fundraising.