What inspires people to donate their hard-earned money to a stranger’s cause? And how do these people choose which of the thousands of noble causes to donate their limited resources to?
It all starts with a fundraising letter.
What is a Fundraising Letter?
A fundraising letter is your first impression and most important chance to connect with a potential donor (no pressure). They can be an effective way to raise awareness, build relationships with donors, and secure much needed financial support. You’ve likely sent and/or received a fundraising letter. You know, the ones that have a similar structure to this:
Dear [First Name],
I hope this letter finds you well. I am reaching out today on behalf of [Organization’s Name], a nonprofit dedicated to [nonprofit’s mission]. We believe that everyone deserves [nonprofit’s core values].
However, we can’t do this work alone. We rely on the generosity of donors such as yourself to fund our programs and make a positive impact in our community.
Your donation will directly support [the specific programs or initiatives that the donor’s gift will support]. Whether it’s [a few specific examples of the impact that the donor’s gift will make], your gift will help us make a real difference.
Every dollar counts. Even a small gift of [suggested donation amount] can make a world of difference.
Thank you for considering making a gift to [Organization’s Name]. Together, we can positively change lives.
Donate today [link to donate].
[Nonprofit Organization’s Name]
You have to accomplish a lot in your appeal: explain your cause, demonstrate why it’s important, and prove to your readers that their money will be best spent with you – all in a digestible, succinct way.
Different Kinds of Fundraising Letters
There’s different kinds of fundraising letters; when you use them depends on what you’re raising money for. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most common types of fundraising letters.
Standard Fundraising Letter
First off, a standard fundraising letter is a type of fundraising letter sent out by charitable organizations to ask for donations. Generally, an effective donation letter will include an overview of your organization’s work, a brief summary of what you’re fundraising for (the issue), a heartwarming story, and a call to action that encourages your readers to give. They can be sent out at any time during the year as a standalone letter but you might also see them included in welcome packets.
While it’s an excellent idea to have a generic template on hand, they should still be personalized, donor-centric, and concise. Since you wouldn’t communicate with a first time donor the same way you’d communicate with a major donor, it’s imperative to tweak the language depending on who the donor is.
Pro Tip: Adding a P.S. is a simple but effective way to enhance the impact of your fundraising appeal and encourage readers to take action. Usually, it’s the first thing that donors see, which can be especially helpful if they’re skimming the letter. A P.S. is also a way to personalize the message and create a sense of urgency particularly when used to reinforce a deadline for donations.
Individual Fundraising Letter
Fundraising letters aren’t only limited to nonprofits. Sometimes individuals find a need to fundraise whether it’s for a life event or a personal cause that’s near and dear to them. You’ll likely encounter individual fundraising letters on crowdfunding campaigns that involve soliciting donations from a large number of individuals, often through social media and other online platforms.
For compelling individual appeals that’ll drive donations, spell out what you’re fundraising for and why it’s important to you. Since these letters are intended for other individuals (friends, family, coworkers, and strangers), you don’t want to sound overly formal. Instead, make the tone of your letter friendly and relatable so that your reader gets excited about donating to your cause!
Pro Tip: Include a photo to grab your reader’s attention.
Volunteer Request Letter
Volunteers are essential to any organization and many would not be able to move their mission forward without the help of dedicated individuals. To that end, nonprofits use volunteer request letters to recruit more manpower and expand their capacity.
A volunteer request letter should:
- Be personalized with the recipient’s name
- Explain the nonprofit’s mission
- Detail the specific volunteer opportunity (including time commitment, duties, and necessary qualifications)
- Highlight the benefits of volunteering including how their time and effort will make a tangible impact on the population or community you support
- End with a clear call-to-action
- Include next steps such as how to apply and contact information for someone to call for additional questions.
Pro Tip: If you’re writing a letter to someone that has a history of volunteering with your organization, reference their previous involvement by thanking them for their service and asking if they’d be interested in volunteering again.
Corporate Sponsorship Letter
Corporate philanthropy is a big thing. Many companies want to do good in their communities and you’ve likely noticed that many big names out there have a dedicated corporate philanthropic arm.
Corporate sponsorship letters are used for soliciting companies to help raise funds for an event, project, or initiative. To be effective, corporate sponsorship letters must be personalized and tailored to the interests and values of the business being solicited. The letter should demonstrate a clear understanding of the business’s goals and objectives, and how supporting your organization can align with those goals. Moreover, you should include information about your organization, sponsorship rewards and incentives (AKA what sponsors will receive in exchange for their support) such as promotional items, advertising, or free tickets to the event. If you’re approaching a company who has sponsored you in the past, definitely reference that in your letter and thank them for their past involvement.
Pro Tip: Emphasize how the partnership will be mutually beneficial for you and the company.
Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Letter
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are one of the most effective ways for your nonprofit to raise money and spread the word about your mission online. Your supporters create personal or team campaign pages to fundraise on behalf of your cause by reaching out to their friends, family, and coworkers.
Peer-to-peer fundraising letters are used by your peer-to-peer fundraisers to raise funds. The letter should include the name of the fundraiser, why they’re raising money, what the funds will be used for, the anticipated impact, and an ask.
Matching Gift Fundraising Letter
Not all of your supporters are aware that their employers offer matching gifts, which is why it’s important to encourage donors to take advantage of their employer’s matching gift programs with a matching gift fundraising letter.
These letters can outline how a donor can check for eligibility and send in a matching gift request. Highlight the fact that submitting this request will not be an additional expense on their part. Instead, let your donor know that it’s an easy and free way for them to maximize the impact of their original gift.
To determine which of your donors qualify for a matching gift, refer to a matching gift database like Double the Donation.
School Fundraising Letter
A school fundraising letter is a type of letter sent out by a school or other educational institution to solicit donations from parents, alumni, and other community members. The goal of this letter is to raise funds to support school-related programs, such as extracurricular activities, school supplies, and classroom technology.
When crafting a school fundraising letter, include a brief description of the school’s mission and values, details about the specific programs and initiatives the funds will be used for, the impact a donation will have on the school and its students, and a strong call to action.
Church Fundraising Letter
Faith-based organizations run on fellowship, faith, and funds.
Church fundraising letters are used to raise money on behalf of a congregation. They can be used to ask for general contributions or to fundraise for a specific initiative (mission trip funding, charity item requests, church renovations, etc.). Depending on the need, church fundraising letters are typically sent to members of a congregation or community members.
Auction Item Request Letter
Whether you’re hosting a silent, live, or in-person auction, you’re going to need to procure cool items for people to bid on. The elements of an effective auction item request letter includes a brief introduction to your nonprofit, key information about your event, why you’re raising funds, what’s in it for them, and a direct ‘ask’. Typically, auction item request letters will also include a donation form.
Animal Rescue Fundraising Letter
To keep the doors open and the lights on, animal rescues rely on public generosity. Animal rescue fundraising letters focus on raising money to support abandoned or rescued animals. With a high saturation of animal-focused nonprofits out there, you’ll need to make your fundraising letter unique and memorable. Similar to a standard appeal letter, include your specific fundraising goal and detail how the money will be used. For an animal rescue, the purpose could be to cover the costs of veterinarian bills or to replenish food and supplies.
Fundraising Thank You Letter
Every donation counts, which is why thanking your donors should be a top priority. An easy way to do that is to have a standardized fundraising thank you letter that’s sent to your donors after they’ve given to your org. These letters should address your donor by name, highlight the impact of their gift, and let them know just how much you appreciate them. In addition to saying thanks, you want to be transparent by mentioning how your nonprofit is going to use the funds raised.
Be sure to personalize your thank you letters so that your donors feel acknowledged; if this is a first-time donor, you want to retain them for a long time to come and a fundraising thank you letter is a great touchpoint to do that. For repeat donors, reference their previous contributions in your thank you letter. If there are other noteworthy details about their gift, include that too.
Pro Tip: Send your thank you letter within 24-72 hours of receiving a donation. This lets your donors know that you’ve received their donation and it makes them feel valued immediately.
How to Write a Fundraising Letter
Persuasive writing convinces people to make donations, plain and simple. If your fundraising appeal doesn’t have a clear point of view, specific asks, and good storytelling, you are not going to convince people to donate.
Read our complete online guide here to learn how to write an effective and inspiring fundraising appeal.
More Best Practices
Writing good copy is hard. Here are eleven quick tips for crafting effective fundraising letters guaranteed to drive more donations:
1. Be Direct
Don’t beat around the bush. If “money” is what you need, don’t be timid about using that word in your fundraising letter. For example, “your support is crucial to helping us reach our goals” sounds like a pretty vague statement. However, saying “your gift of $25 will help us provide 5 hours of individualized literacy tutoring” is much more specific in communicating what you’re actually asking for. Remember, if you don’t ask clearly, you won’t receive. Be direct about what you need.
2. Think About Your Audience
Depending on your audience, the tone of your letter matters. Generally, your donors should feel like you’re both on friendly terms so use words like “I,” “we,” and “you.” To grab a reader’s attention and make your message relevant to them, segment your audience. Include their preferred name and reference previous giving or engagement history. Not only will this improve your donor’s overall experience when they’re reading your letter but it increases the likelihood of them giving to you again.
3. Make it Easy to Read
A fundraising letter shouldn’t be a struggle to read. The first tip for readability is to mind your font. For print, it’s recommended to stick with serif fonts and for email, use sans serif fonts. Double check that your fonts are sized appropriately. The larger the font, the easier it is to read and we recommend using at least 12 pt.
Next, break up your text by leaving white space or by incorporating high-quality images. Large walls of text can put a strain on your reader’s eyes, discouraging them from continuing to read.
Lastly, it’s unlikely that your reader will read every word (it’s true, I’m guilty of skimming letters too). To make important things stand out, bold, underline, or italicize key phrases or sentences and use bulleted lists where appropriate. While it’s not a hard and fast rule, it’s generally good practice to limit your paragraphs to seven sentences or less.
4. Use Approachable Language
Keep in mind that there’s an actual person reading your fundraising letter so you’ll want to make it approachable. Ditch the big words and opt to keep your sentences concise.
In case you didn’t already know, Microsoft Word has a feature that will automatically calculate the readability and grade level of your fundraising letter. The Flesch reading ease score measures how easy to read your text is. It’s ideal to score between 70 to 80, which is equivalent to an 8th grade reading level. The higher the score, the easier your text is to read.
5. Emphasize Urgency
Donors need to know why it is important for them to give now. Demonstrate the immediate needs a donation will address. Include a deadline and any time-sensitive incentives (i.e. matching gift opportunity).
6. Tell an Engaging Story
Connect the reader to your cause by telling the story of a real person that their donation will help. Compelling stories are key to effective communication, drawing people in and allowing them to relate to the issue on a personal level.
When Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer, she felt overwhelmed and alone. She was struggling to navigate the healthcare system and didn’t know where to turn for support. That’s when she discovered the Cancer Support Network, a nonprofit that provides free counseling and support services to cancer patients and their families.
Through the Cancer Support Network, Emma was paired with a compassionate counselor who helped her to process her emotions and develop coping strategies. Moreover, she also attended support groups where she met others who understood what she was going through.
Thanks to the Cancer Support Network, Emma found hope during a difficult time and was able to navigate her treatment with greater ease.
Today, Emma is cancer-free and regularly volunteers with the Cancer Support Network. Grateful for the support she received, she continues to provides comfort to others going through the same journey.”
Doesn’t that just make your heart melt?
P.S. Click here to see how CauseVox makes fundraising online easy. Share your story, craft an effective fundraising appeal, and activate your supporters to reach new donors. It’s 100% free to get started.
7. Show Impact
It’s important to communicate the impact that a donor’s gift will have. Here are a few ways to accomplish that in a fundraising letter:
- Use concrete examples: Share success stories of individuals that have been positively impacted by your nonprofit.
- Discuss future plans: Help your donors see the long-term impact of their support by sharing your plans for the future and how their gift will help meet those goals.
- Add visuals: Include photos or videos that further illustrate impact.
Showing impact in a fundraising letter is about sharing concrete examples of how your nonprofit is making a difference. By highlighting successes and future plans, donors can better understand how their gift will help to support the nonprofit’s mission and create positive change.
8. Skip the Statistics
The purpose of a fundraising letter is to make an emotional appeal. While statistics can be useful in demonstrating the scope of an issue, they can often be overwhelming or impersonal in a fundraising appeal. Donors want to feel a personal connection to your cause and see the impact of their donation on real individuals, rather than just numbers on a page.
That said, statistics have a place in fundraising letters when used sparingly. They can help to contextualize a problem and provide donors with a sense of your nonprofit’s broader impact. However, make sure you balance statistics with storytelling in order to create a compelling appeal.
9. Thank and Sign
Sign off your letters by thanking your reader for their support. Rather than sign it with your organization’s name, use your name or the name of a board member or other organization representative. It’s a simple way to add a personal touch and let your donors know that there’s a real person (and not a robot) behind the letter.
10. Rewrite, Revise
Once you have your fundraising letter drafted, it’s best practice to have it reviewed by someone else. Let’s face it – mistakes happen and tunnel vision is a real thing; a fresh pair of eyes can spot issues you may have otherwise missed. Grammatical errors and misspellings not only look unprofessional but they can sometimes be embarrassing blunders. For instance, if you’re running a food pantry, you’ll want to make sure your letter says “pantry” and not “panty”. In this example, a single missing letter has just thrown off the vibe and meaning.
11. Offer a Clear Call to Action
In any fundraiser letter, it’s important to offer a clear call to action for your readers. Provide specific asks to readers at the end of your appeal. Usually it’s money. Other times you may want them to sign up for email updates or volunteer with you. Offer clear instructions on how to do so. Make them feel involved.
Pro Tip: Make it easy for your recipient to give. Include a pre-addressed and stamped remit form and envelope, as well as a QR code and link.
It’s Your Turn
Fundraising letters communicate your nonprofit’s needs and lets your readers know exactly how they can help. Now it’s your turn. Are there any of these tips you’ve found useful? What would you add to the list?
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