Fundraising letters can be very effective fundraising tools for non-profits, if you know what to say and when to say it. A fundraising letter holds many intricacies. A donation letter, individual, sponsor, crowdfunding or thank you letter all have nuances within their category. Making these communications your own and talking to your audience is paramount in creating strong appeals.
Experts believe the most important component of a donation letter or fundraising letter is the person on the other end reading it. What they think about your letter is everything – donors, prospective donors and volunteers. Ask yourself in each letter, have I included the motivating factor of changing the world? Have I made the recipient the hero of my non-profit fundraising campaign?
Email vs Direct Mail Campaigns
Fundraising letters can be sent via email or direct mail. The idea behind the letters are the same, but there are differences:
- Email readers typically have a short attention span. Therefore, Email letters are generally very short and send readers to your organization’s website, blog or call to action. You don’t need to include much information here – just grab the reader’s attention and lead them where you want them to go. (A good email length is perhaps 500 words or less.)
- With direct mail, the letters can be much longer and fuller, as long as the content is engaging to your audience. Direct mail (aka snail mail) recipients may not go to your website and will make a decision to make a donation based on the information you provide in the fundraising letter. The tone is perhaps more formal in this letter as well, stating statistics and perhaps financials. Be sure to include a donation envelope as well as links to online donation channels.
The Finicky Fundraising Letter
The audience for a fundraising letter or donation letter may include: past and current donors and supporters, business sponsors, volunteers, staff, those effected by your organization, and any other individuals who have expressed interest in your organization. You have the opportunity to create an appeal for anyone and everyone associated with the organization, but you’ll need to segment your letters.
Send a slightly different donation letter to different groups. For example, past donors should receive a different letter than prospects or volunteers, as you’ll thank them for their previous donations. It means a lot to your contributors that you remember their past contributions. Acknowledgement builds the ties that create heartfelt connections to encourage people to stay involved with your nonprofit.
Here are five types of fundraising letters and campaigns to consider for your non-profit.
When nonprofits thank donors and volunteers they often say, ‘thanks for supporting our organization’. Whereas the motivation for people to give their money and time is to help people. Differentiating and voicing your thanks goes something like this:
- A letter of thanks is nice when a supporter has volunteered, spent time on a project, or endless hours on your board. Expressing your appreciation for their specific efforts and dedication encourages them to continue to give. Too often letters of thanks only come to donors for monetary gifts.
- Of course, thank you letters or emails are important when donors actually have donated money to your charity organization. How the donated funds will be used is often missing in nonprofit thank you letters. Taking the time to speak to this will hearten donors, as they want to know how they’ll actually make a difference.
- Follow-up letters are key in telling donors of the progress you are making with their money. Keep telling them your story in follow-up letters.
Matching Gifts Campaign Letters
Matching gifts campaigns can be powerful fundraisers. Attach each matching gift campaign and letter to a certain project. If you are cleaning up a river, discuss the project and its challenges. Large employers and their employees will feel a sense of urgency which is real. Add an invitation to a presentation by a noted scholar or public figure to get their attention.
Note the types of matching gift fundraising letters:
- Employees first make a charitable donation to your nonprofit. Next they follow the guidelines set by their employers for processing the paperwork for matching. Their corporation makes their decision, and donates the same amount to your charity. Yet there is a second way this may occur…
- Employers may send their employees a letter saying they will match employee donations towards a cause. In this case, you are writing to the corporation. This is an opportunity to get wordy. Include statistics, but balance your appeal with heart to heart stories of our work. Your goal is to inform potential corporate donors yet invoke empathy for your cause.
- Keep the excitement high for potential matching donations by sending repeat letters. You may be able to find a donor who will triple the donation. Major donors may find the momentum infectious and up the ante. Repeat letters are also effective simply to inform those involved in a matching donation campaign of your earnings. Add a little mystery as to who donated and how much to keep folks intrigued.
Sponsorship Fundraising Letters
Local businesses and corporations can be approached for sponsorships. While these efforts are generally more successful when meeting in person or with a personal connection, it is often appropriate to leave marketing materials and letters for the business to review at a later time. It is important to remember that businesses are looking for a reciprocal relationship – so your letter to businesses shall include sponsor levels and benefits. For a sponsorship fundraising letter, your charity organization is in a position to send two different types of appeals:
- Perhaps your objective is to receive corporate sponsorship donations for a specific project. For this purpose you’ll define the specific project you are fundraising for. If you are fundraising for kids who need a better library, go into detail as to their current conditions. Write about elementary school education and its importance.
- The second type is fundraising event specific. If you are planning a fundraising walk, perhaps you’ll ask them to invite their employees and send your walk web link to them. Be illustrious in your letter writing to describe the theme of your event and get them in the mood for fun fundraising.
General Donation Requests
General donation letters may be sent annually, biannually or quarterly – either online via email or offline via a traditional direct mail campaign. Most charity organizations send their appeals via both channels to effectively reach their audience. These letters generally fall under the annual fund drive and are especially popular and effective for end of year giving campaigns. Annual fund is a term that generally refers to the funds raised to support an organization’s annual operating budget. An annual fund can work as either a collect all throughout the year or it can be associated with a specific campaign or campaigns, including direct mail, email, Social Media and fundraising events.
Crowdfunding is a powerful fundraising method, as your crowdfunding participants send letters to their friends, family, neighbors and community members on behalf of your organization. As they raise money for a color run or any peer-to-peer fundraising event, letters requesting donations are effective. Encourage participants to talk about their personal connection to your organization and why they are crowdfunding for your charity.
Starting with a request for donations, and following up with emails as to the progress of your individual fundraising keeps donor psyched. It offers another opportunity or reminder for them to donate. Include your personal fundraising website in each fundraising letter or social media post.