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5 Tips for Writing Individual Appeals

You hear us say it all the time, “The best way to start your fundraising is to write an individual appeal letter and send it to everyone you know.”  When you think about it, how else are you going to be able to ask everyone you know to contribute to your initiative?  However, it’s not worth it to work on a solicitation letter if it’s not going to be effective.  What makes an effective appeal letter, you might ask?  Whether you’re writing an email, a letter, or putting together a crowdfunding campaign, here are some tips and tools to help you get your appeal writing off to a good start.

  1. Keep It Short and Simple. Your solicitation letter should be short (1-2 pages max) and straight forward, offering a brief description of your need and instructions for how to donate.  You want to make sure you have the attention of your audience from beginning to end, rather than rambling on and providing too many details.  Think of all of the solicitations you receive in a year.  Which ones do you read all the way through?  Even if you’re someone who does not lose interest quickly, you can certainly speak to the effectiveness of the concise letters.  Before sending out the letter, ask yourself if you would read the whole thing if you received the appeal in the mail unsolicited. If not, you might want to cut down on some of the details and make sure you’re being straight forward with the letter’s intentions.

  2. Be Direct. Remember, you’re asking for money, which should be clear in your letter.  It is absolutely appropriate to ask for donations in the first paragraph, as it lets your donors know why they’ve received the letter and why they should continue to read it.   Once you’ve gotten their attention, you can give a brief explanation about your initiative and why they should donate in support of it.  Be sure to also include your fundraising goal and a deadline.  Your donors will never know how much money you need or when to contribute unless you tell them.

  3. Make it personal. Your donors want to be assured that this project is important to you and them.  Do not be afraid to speak to their humanity in an attempt to get them to donate.  If you’re close with the donor, add a note about your personal connection with him/her and how your project might add to that connection or speak to his/her personality.  Ultimately, it will be the donors’ personal connection with your project that will encourage them to donate.

  4. Proof-read and edit. You shouldn’t send anything out to your donors without proof-reading it first for grammatical and spelling errors.  I’d suggest even reading it out loud to make sure it flows well.  I’d even suggest that you have a colleague proof-read it and give suggestions for how it might be improved as necessary.

  5. Thank them! Thank them in advance for their donation in addition to thanking them after they make a donation.  Their donation is important, and they should know it.  Help eliminate hesitation by assuring them that their donation is important and that you are eternally grateful for their contribution and support.

Your appeal letter should serve a specific purpose in your overall fundraising plan and should be considered in relation with your other fundraising endeavors.   One appeal might not be appropriate for all of your needs and you should strategize your ask for each letter.  For example, one letter might ask one set of donors for cash donations while another letter asks another set of donors for non-cash donations.

Just as with your other fundraising efforts, you also cannot send it out and expect results.  You’ll want to follow up with your donors, especially if they've contributed before.  If they say “no” this time, they might say “yes” in the future if you continue to nurture your relationship with them.

Happy fundraising!