7 Things to Avoid When Writing Fundraising Letters

Writing fundraising letters

The Fundraising Letters You Should Not Be Sending – and What You Can Do to Improve Them

Fundraising letters are an important part of any organization’s fundraising strategy. They are a way for your nonprofit to connect with constituents and hopefully convert them to donors. However, not all fundraising letters are created equal. There are some oversights that you should avoid when writing your own fundraising letter if you want it to be successful.

Here are some of the most common missteps that nonprofits make when writing their own fundraising letters:

  1. Focusing on your organization – One of the worst things you can do is make a self-centered letter. People care about impacts made and how their gift made it possible, so use that frame of mind in your content. In fact, if your letter passes the ‘you’ test, you’re on a winner!

  2. Using too many call outs – Don’t confuse your desired action. Hone in on the most important text and that’s requesting a donation. And at the same time, feel comfortable repeating your ask at least three times. Repetition sticks.

  3. Not using data to its fullest – This is where cleaning up your data is key.  Adding variable names, gift history, etc. give the piece another level of personalization which can help drive engagement. While our account managers work with data daily, and have a keen eye to catch certain errors, it is imperative that your data base is clean.

  4. Leaving out any urgency – “Imagine you make a donation to our non-profit tomorrow.” What impact do you think this would have? How does it feel to be the person who helped give students hope for tuition or food for an animal shelter?

  5. Overdesigning a letter can be overwhelming – While using imagery in a letter is an added bonus, don’t overcomplicate the letter with too many images and graphics that don’t piece your story together.

  6. Using the same old envelope – This is the first impression your donor receives. Make them want to donate before they even read your letter with a tagline or graphic. Consider it an invitation to open.

  7. Not saying thank you for previous donations. Here’s where your data comes back to help you. If you’re reaching out to your annual donors, thank them for the previous donation. You can utilize variable printing to create an Ugly Betty-style letter. Talk about visuals to help you stand out!

Tips to make your fundraising appeal letter successful

Fundraising letters are just one of many things that will support any fundraising campaign. If you incorporate stories in your letters to support your target audience, they are more likely to donate to your cause.

Write an engaging opening sentence.  Make sure it’s powerful. You want them to keep reading and draw them in with every word.

There are many factors that contribute to the success of fundraising appeal letters. The most important factor is the recipient’s attention span. The appeal letter should be short and to the point. As mentioned previously, it should also be personalized to the individual.

The next important factor is how well it connects with the recipient. This can be accomplished by acknowledging their achievements or giving them a personal connection to your cause. Are they are recent graduate or a parent of one?  Celebrate it with them.

The last major factor in deciding whether or not your fundraising appeal letter will be successful is how emotionally compelling it is for the reader. The goal of this part of your letter should be to make them want to help you out by donating money, volunteering their time, or donating supplies for your cause.

Think of a fundraising campaign as a marathon. You can’t win the race by running 1 mile and then stopping, so it’s important to keep the momentum going with heartfelt conversations and consistently consider their needs.

Do you struggle writing your annual appeals?

Annual appeals are a crucial part of a nonprofit’s fundraising strategy. They help give members a sense of belonging and feeling that they are part of something meaningful. Whether you’re a small nonprofit or large, annual appeals provide capital for your future missions and programs.

Our content writers can help. Reach out to us today for help on writing your next appeal.

P.S. Don’t forget to use a postscript to ask for a donation one more time!


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Kathy McConnell