If you are planning to send an annual appeal out this quarter, you are probably knee-deep in writing. As you probably know, this quarter is the best time of year to send them, many organizations bring in as much as 50% of their annual revenue during the months of October, November and December. It makes sense, think about it—as Thanksgiving approaches, everyone becomes more generous, and for those who are not naturally generous, the month of December brings thoughts of income taxes and quick tax deductions.
So, if your annual fundraising plan includes an annual giving letter, keep reading.
Let’s begin with some tips for success:
- Write simply. We have become very used to skimming and reading quickly, actually skipping a lot as we read, looking for the key points in a document. A comfortable reading level for most people is a third to sixth grade level. Avoid using words that have multiple syllables, they make the reading level higher. As part of writing simply, you will also want to use short paragraphs.
- Ask early. In the letter, you will want to make your ask early. In other words, tell the individual you are writing to exactly why you are writing. The purpose of your letter is to request a donation.
- Repeat throughout. Since people tend to skim letters, you will want to make sure you repeat important information several times throughout the letter. Of course, you will find different ways to say the same thing, so you are not repeating information verbatim.
- Appearance. The letter needs to be easy to read. Be careful about trying to squeeze lots of words into the letter by making the font small. Ideally, you will want to use a 14 point font of a font family that is easy to read – no fancy scripts. Use bolded sentences to catch attention.
- Talk about who the organization helps. While the organization needs funds, it is important to remember the letter is not about your organization and what it does. Focus on those you are serving.
Throughout the letter, use terms that connect the reader with the work you are doing. This is easily done by using “you.” Your goal is to make the reader the hero. Immediately connect with the reader by having your opening sentence be about the donor.
As you begin writing the letter, think about how funds can be used to support those you serve. For instance, “a gift of $25 will provide _____________. Think about a range of gifts that your organization can use, developing a list of both small and large needs within the organization. Help the reader to know that even if they are only able to give a small gift, it will be valued and can help the organization.
Begin sketching out a letter and what you want your donors to know. Instead of focusing on a success story, focus on the involvement of the donor in your work.
Develop a PS to summarize your letter and provide a specific call to action for the reader. A call to action is the specific action you want the reader to take following the reading of the letter. In this case, you want the reader to make a donation.
Next week, we will focus on the ancillary parts of the fundraising letter—the envelope and any supplemental materials. This week, begin developing the letter using the tips above.