Ideally, everyone in your community would be familiar with the work your organization does…and of course, value its services. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that many people don’t know about your organization….or even that it exists, and they aren’t aware of the difference that your organization makes for those you serve. An annual appeal letter presents an opportunity for you to introduce your organization, and begin building relationships with potential donors.
First, set realistic expectations for the outcome of your letter. According to many researchers, approaching organizations that are not familiar with your organization will yield less than a one percent response rate. While donations are a priority, your success rate can be increased by viewing the letter as an opportunity for “strangers” to get to know you.
Think about the type of information that you want someone who is not familiar with your work to know about the organization:
- Who are you?
- Who do you serve?
- Where do you serve?
- What types of results/outcomes have those participating in your program/service achieved?
- What will you do with the money that you receive through an annual appeal letter?
While writing this letter, remember that the individuals who will be reading it don’t know you. Thus, you need to convince the reader that you can be trusted, that your work makes a difference in the community.
Connect with the reader when writing the letter. A brief anecdote or story will connect the reader and let them know that you are a lot like them and understand their feelings and concerns. An interesting opening can make a quick connection.
Stories help people to visualize you and your staff actually doing the work, so use a success story, or describe a typical client who comes to you for assistance. How do you help this individual? What spells success? Is this a long process or are you able to solve the problem(s) quickly?
Finally, before concluding your letter, “make the ask.” It is time to request a donation. Help the reader to know what you will do with his/her money. Since many first time donations are small, you will want the reader to know that their donation matters. If potential donors believe that their donation will not make a difference, they are less likely to contribute.
Since you are working to build a relationship with these individuals, it will be important to stay in touch throughout the year. Invite the reader to sign up for your newsletter, and then send them your newsletter on a regular basis. Invite them to events and activities sponsored by your organization…and not just to fundraising events.
Next week, our focus will be on writing effective thank you notes. Does your organization have donors who are already familiar with the great work your organization is doing? Visit our website and read “Successful Annual Appeal Letters.”
Would your organization like to write an annual appeal letter this year? We can help, contact us today to discuss your needs and how we can help you get the funding you need to meet them.