Practical advice for charities: how to write to your biggest supporters

When you write to your most generous givers, asking for a donation, you need to be very clear about what you want. They already know your cause, but you must reinforce why you need their backing again.

Here’s what you must include in a letter to major givers:

·       the need – if it’s not strong, why should your donor send a gift?

·       how much you’d like the donor to give

·       exactly what the gift will achieve

·       how to respond

·       when to respond.

Your letter to your best donors will fail if these five points are not crystal clear.

Use design elements

Around 80% of your donors will scan your letter before reading it. So you must make it easy for the reader to scan and quickly digest major points.

By using bullet points or bolded text, you can highlight the most important facts in your letter.

But take care – don’t over-use this technique. Select only the most important sentences, with the most vital action.

Understand where a scanner’s eyeballs go

There are key areas of a letter that attract the eyes of a scanner. Almost immediately, a scanner will be drawn to:

·       any hand-written text

·       the P.S. at the end of the letter

·       bolded copy.

If you’re not using these design techniques, you’re missing an opportunity to grab your reader’s attention.

Make the need compelling

Why should your donor send a gift if there is not a compelling, urgent need?  You know how many children will be clothed/fed/hydrated/educated with a $125 gift – but your supporter usually does not.  

Make it clear. Make it achievable. Make it urgent. If you’re vague or wishy-washy, you will not get a response.

Tell your donors your story with authenticity and compassion. Don’t blind them with statistics – engage them with the emotion and human element of your need.

Remember to be donor-centric

It’s all about the donor – not you. Put your donor at the heart of the solution. It is achievable with your support.

It’s the life-changing outcomes that major donor support delivers that have the power. The infrastructure behind the change is not what motivates donors – it’s the change they can effect that makes them want to give.

Your major donors are your lifeblood – don’t forget to let them know how wonderful they are and how grateful you are for their support.