It’s Fall and that means it’s time to find the perfect fundraising letter template.
If your Fall fundraising appeal is all planned out, well done. If it’s already in process or in the mail, excellent work!
If you haven’t even started thinking about it yet, don’t panic. You still have time, but you need to get on it now.
And good news! I have a fundraising letter template that works. Ready for it?
Before you start filling in the blanks in that fundraising letter template, get your ducks in a row. It’ll help you minimize your costs and maximize your return.
1. Clean up your mailing list. Don’t send your fundraising appeal to people who don’t want to hear from you anymore. A clean list, with the most current email and mailing addresses, will save you money and help you reach the right people fast.
2. Plan it out. What story will you tell in the letter? What will you ask people to give? What difference will their money make? When will the letter need to go out? Planning out your appeal can help you get it done in a short period of time.
3. Set goals for your fundraising appeal.
Don’t just mail or email a letter and hope to raise money. Be clear about the specific results you want from your appeal. There’s actually a LOT of math you can do to calculate the results you might get (I usually crunch these numbers for my clients). At a minimum, consider these goals:
- The largest number of gifts possible (exactly how many would that be for your nonprofit?).
- The highest possible gift from each donor (what is your typical average gift size?).
- The smallest cost possible for the mailing (will you print, fold, & stuff in house or outsource it?).
- The best return on investment (ROI) for the dollars you spend.
Most fundraising appeals are crap.
They’re written by committee (deadly mistake!) or written by someone who doesn’t understand the psychology behind a successful appeal. They think they can just throw some words on a page and then sit back and collect the money.
Bad news – it doesn’t work that way.
A terrible appeal talks about how great the organization is, how long they’ve been around, and how amazing their work is.
A great appeal tugs the donor’s heartstrings and moves them to reach for their wallet.
See the difference? It’s about who the letter is focused on. More on that in a minute.
Here are some tips to help you write the best possible letter with or without a template.
1. Be donor-focused. Don’t write an appeal that’s all about you. Don’t talk about how great the year was or how challenging it’s been – no one wants to hear that. Instead, tell a story about someone whose life has been changed by the work your nonprofit does. It’s way more interesting and engaging. Being self-centered is the biggest mistake you can make with your appeal.
2. Write to one person. As you write your appeal, don’t think about the hundreds of people who will receive it. Instead, picture one donor in your mind, and write to that one person. Your letter will be way more conversational and interesting.
3. Start with a short, hooky first sentence and tell a story. Short and hooky will grab the reader’s attention. If you start by talking about your organization or your programs, you’ll lose the reader. The first sentence should grab them and pull them in. The next sentence keeps them reading, and so on.
4. Only include the essentials. It’s tempting to tell EVERYTHING about your organization. After all, you want your donor to understand how it all works, right? Don’t. It’s overwhelming. Only share what the reader needs to know to make the decision to give. Anything else just gets in the way.
5. Have an 8-year old approve it. Seriously. Hand your letter to a kid and see if they understand it. If they get stuck on complex sentence structure or jargon, go back and try it again. Your letter should be super simple to read and understand.
I write a LOT of letters for clients. Once I get the story and the angle in my head, I can usually whip a letter out in about 30 minutes and my clients love the results they get! On a recent coaching call, I rewrote an appeal for a homeless ministry and they raised over $20,000 with it! So I KNOW this works!
Here’s the fundraising letter template that I personally use:
1. Grab the reader’s attention with a short, compelling first line that begins to tell a story. This is the hook that gets people started reading your letter.
2. Continue the letter by telling a story that demonstrates the need met by your organization. Keep the paragraphs short – maybe a sentence or two. It makes the letter easier to read.
3. Pivot and talk about the gap between the number of lives currently being changed and the number still waiting. This puts your message into context.
4. Transition into why you need your reader’s help and the urgency of the need. Urgency is critical – if you don’t give people a reason to act NOW, you won’t raise as much money.
5. Make the Ask. Ask for a specific amount of money and talk about what that money will do.
6. End the letter with a clear call to action (“Use the enclosed envelope to send your best gift today”).
7. Use the signature of the top-ranking staff person.
8. In a short P.S., repeat the Ask.
This template works. Every. Time.
Want to make your letter irresistible? Try one of these:
- Add photos of the person/animal in the story.
- Add a link to a video online where the donor can see and hear more about the person/animal from the story.
- Follow up a print letter with a shorter email version to remind the donor to give.
- Support the story in the letter with social media posts, especially if you can link to the video.
- Have your Board members add hand-written notes on the letters to people they personally know.
You can raise a LOT of money with both snail mail and email fundraising letters if you follow the right formula. Use my fundraising letter template and your donors will easily understand what you’re asking them to do which will pave the way to more and bigger donations this Fall.