The Action Words guide to writing fundraising letters
1. Start with a short sentence and a short paragraph.
2. Keep your paragraphs to a maximum of four lines.
3. Choose everyday words – they are easier for readers.
4. Include subheads and bullets to get attention.
5. Include the word ‘you’ at least a dozen times.
6. Write a strong call to action, personally directed to the reader.
7. Point out what the donor’s gift will achieve.
8. Don’t end without stressing your sincere thanks.
9. Put the benefits in the margin. It allows people to quickly scan the letter for benefits – they may be encouraged by a particular benefit to read more.
10. Use plenty of white space. It makes reading easier.
11. Don’t use a word they don’t know. Your readers won’t be intrigued – they’ll feel stupid. And they won’t continue reading.
12. End the first page of the letter with an incomplete thought or sentence. This is the best way to encourage people to turn the page.
13. Use short words and simple language. Your reader should not have to put effort into figuring out exactly what you mean.
14. Good appeals need good stories. Write your appeal about someone who attracts strong feelings.
15. Use compelling words. The words you use can have a powerful impact on how your message is received.
16. Paint a picture with your copy. This is one of the best ways to write with emotion.
17. Headlines with feeling. A first-class heading has to slice through the clutter in your reader’s life and powerfully grab attention.
18. Remember the envelope. If you want to stand out in a crowd of appeal letters, think outside the plain white rectangle.
19. Use an envelope teaser – but only if it has real impact.
20. Use a powerful ‘PS’ as it is often the first thing people read.