How to write a good fundraising appeal letter. Correction, how to write a brilliant fundraising appeal letter.
Cast your mind back to any memorable mail you’ve received in the last, let’s say, two months. Now, discard those items that only register on your memory bank for being hefty bills, speeding fines or bank statements.
What stands out? Something colourful? A big statement? An attention-grabbing photograph?
A successful appeal letter needs to start its job before you’ve even opened the envelope. Sure, if properly addressed, you’ll probably open the mail anyway. But if you’ve engaged with the sender or cause from the get-go, you’re more likely to at least read the letter.
The envelope is important.
It needs to get the recipient in the right frame of mind – or at least, the letter writer has to ensure that the envelope keeps the recipient ‘open’ to the possibility of making a donation. In practical terms, you have to decide whether a brief envelope teaser might give your letter more impact, or whether it is better to present the envelope as a personal letter. The size and colour of the envelope are also variables that should be considered if you want your appeal letter to stand out.
Beyond the envelope, within the next couple of seconds, the appeal fundraising letter needs to hit you right between the eyes with: this is what’s happened. And this is what you can do! A letter that has any chance of success needs to grab you immediately with the ‘tragedy’ or the ‘plight’ or the ‘disaster’ that requires an action from you.
Once you’re engaged, the skilful appeal letter writer will work backwards and fill in the details of the tragedy. He or she will make the problem seem so fixable. All that needs to happen is for you to deliver the required action.
And the action should be directly linked to an outcome. A brilliant letter will spell out what your donation or effort will mean to the cause or plight.
For example, “your donation today will provide a tent and clothing for a homeless family” or “the $25 gift you send today will mean that a child can have text books for the whole of this year.”
Highlighting what your donation will mean for the charity is at the core of any effective appeal letter. After all, donors will only give money where they believe that their contribution will actually achieve something worthwhile. If you write an appeal letter without offering a solution, you cannot expect people to respond.