Fundraising Appeal Letter - How to Write Fundraising Appeal Letters for your Nonprofit With Examples!

Fundraising Appeal Letter - How to Write Fundraising Appeal Letters for your Nonprofit With Examples!

Fundraising appeal letters are one of the oldest forms of asking for donations. And although they are now more often sent electronically through email rather than the post office, fundraising letters are still one of the most powerful ways of securing donations for any nonprofit. That is of course if they are well written and convey the right message to your potential donors.

These letters are specifically crafted communications aimed at persuading potential donors to contribute financially to a specific project, cause, or organization. When well crafted, these types of requests allow your supporters to personally connect to your cause and organization, while at the same time persuading them to make a financial commitment and become actual donors.

Fundraising letters can work for all types of charitable organizations including non-profit organizations, charities, schools, and other groups seeking financial support for their causes. Plus once you have a letter format that works, you can use this same template for all sorts of fundraising ideas, assuring that you’ll get a better and more fruitful response when requesting funds.

These letters don’t even need to be all that long or complicated, they just need to be clear, able to emotionally connect to the reader, and strategically ask for their financial support all in a way that flows while being sincere and honest. In the world of writing, we call people that do this professionally copywriters.

Thankfully for these professionals, there are many outlines and proven techniques we can learn and incorporate into our own letters in order to increase the chances of us securing a donation. And we don’t even need to be professionals to do this. That’s why we’re writing this article, to help any nonprofit write profitable letters that convert; to get your supporters to become financial donors.

We’ll go over how to use certain copywriting formulas in order to craft better donation letters, as well as some offering practical fundraising tips for maximizing their total impact. We'll delve into how to craft compelling narratives and the importance of personalizing messages, and the significance of clear, actionable steps for making a donation.

Additionally, we'll touch on the role of follow-up communications and how they can greatly enhance donor engagement and retention. We’re even going to give you a few letter templates that you can use to help get you started as quickly and easily as possible. So feel free to use these templates for your own letters, just be sure to read everything below so you can make them unique to your own situation and as impactful as possible.

Write Personal Appeals - Understanding Your Fundraising Letter Audience

Before you ever write a word, you really need to understand your audience and what drives them to act. For some it may be they feel compelled to be involved in something bigger than themselves, for others it may simply be vanity and they want others to see them as being philanthropist and a good person in the community. The more personalized you can make these letters, the more chance of success you’ll have.

Just think about it from your own perspective. If you received a letter asking for a donation and it started off with, ‘Dear Sir or Ma’am, We are looking for people to send us money to help with various mental health issues in our community.’ What do you think the chances are you’d actually send them a donation? Our guess is probably 0-1%.

But when a potential donor receives a letter with a warm personalized greeting, speaks to their inner motivations and makes them feel connected to your cause on a deep emotional level, then clearly asks for a donation and how they can give a gift easily, how much do you think your chances of securing their financial support would go up? Considerably! This is the same in any fundraising scenario.

So step one means, know your potential donors as much as possible! The more you can know about an individual, the better chance you’ll have connecting with them. This can even be what sports they like, what they love to do in their free time, if they’re married, have children, profession, and all sorts of other information that can be very helpful.

Hopefully you’re using a solid nonprofit software solution like Paybee and are able to create donor databases when all of this information can be easily found by whoever is writing your letter, and doing the follow up. Great platforms like ours even offer automated responses and email marketing integration. All tools that are perfect for sending and following up with your supporters all from one easy to use dashboard.

Components of Successful Event or Fundraising Appeal Letters

Copywriting has been around since people started entering ads in newspapers and other forms of print media. So luckily, we have many components of successful campaigns to understand what makes the most compelling letters possible. It’s just understanding each one and how to put them together so they have the intended effect on our readers, or potential donors. So you can say any letter is a bit art and strategic planning.

The first aspect we’ll talk about is compelling storytelling. Of course the story here is about you, your organization, it’s cause and mission. You're entire purpose with storytelling is to get your readers to connect to your cause in an impassioned way so they are motivated to become supporters of your mission.

For example, if you’re running an animal shelter and it’s your mission to help any animal in your community, you need to humanize the story so the reader can connect in a meaningful way. One of the best ways to do this is to share real life examples of problems and how your organization and its fundraising and donors have had a positive impact on that situation.

For instance, you could write about how Snoopy was a beagle your nonprofit found tied up in an abandoned lot, and how he obviously hadn’t eaten in weeks and was suffering from severe malnutrition and on the brink of starvation. Then explain how your charity came to the rescue, bringing him back to your facilities and giving him the medical condition he needed, and how over time Snoopy was able to get back to optimum health and successfully find a new home with a loving family. All due to your charity's efforts of course.

Write out using imagery and descriptive sentences like, Snoopy was so thin when we found him that his ribs looked like they would pierce through his skin. His sad eyes looked up at us as we cut the rope around his neck and carried him into our emergency van where we immediately hooked him up with an IV in order to begin getting fluids into him. Sentences like these make your readers feel as if they were there. They are invested in the outcome of your story and Snoopy’s recovery.

Then explain in similar stories how because of the donations individuals like (supporter), you were able to nurse the sad dog back to health. And how happy he was when a family adopted him, his tail wagging and a gleam in his eyes that wasn’t there previously. Descriptive sentences weave together a descriptive narrative that gets the reader hooked. It touches their heart. This is what you’re trying to do with storytelling as a nonprofit.

Once you do get your reader hooked or invested, it’s time to explain how they themselves can help Snoopy and other animals like him. We do this by using a clear call to action, or explicitly asking the reader to donate to your cause in a tactful and strategic manner. It’s your job to direct them towards the action you want them to take. This can be from attending a fundraising event, asking them to volunteer, or just asking them straight for financial support. It doesn’t matter the end result, the same formula can work for all outcomes.

One way of making sure your readers respond to your fundraising call to actions is to make them stand out. Don’t use ambiguous language like we’d love you to help, rather say what you need like, "Donate Now" or "Join Us Today" with links to a page where they can easily give with clear instructions. Many copywriters use payment buttons that they place in the center of the page to really stand out so it is extremely clear what is asked, and how to achieve that request. And as a final tip here, try offering multiple ways to give (online, mail, phone) as well as different payment processing options like using a credit card, PayPal or Stripe.

Another important and often overlooked part of your letter is simply personalization. Whenever you make something personal, you’re inviting trust and building true relationships. Using your donor's name, referencing past fundraising contributions or interactions, and tailoring your correspondence to align with their known interests or the nature of their relationship with your organization is a sure fire way to grab their attention and become memorable. No one wants to feel like a number or just another cog in the wheel. By personalizing your letters as often as possible, you sound authentic and appreciative for their time and any help the do bestow on your organization.

As you can see, writing a letter that connects with your reader, makes them feel involved and important as well as touching their heart and allowing them to be emotionally involved are all powerful ways of crafting letters that get results. The storytelling sets the stage, the emotional appeal deepens the connection, personalization makes the appeal specific to the reader, and the clear call to action provides a direct avenue for them to make an impact.

It just comes down to how to tell your own organization’s unique stories in such a way as to incorporate all of these aspects so at the end of it all, you get your supporters to become actual donors so your charity is free to continue the awesome work it’s doing.

Crafting the Message for Successful Fundraising Letters for Donors

When it comes time to craft your letter, there are a few key components that you need to get right in order for your letter to have the impact you are looking for. This all begins with establishing rapport with the reader. This means creating a connection from the very start while getting as personal as possible with the information you have for each potential donor.

If your supporter has given previously through a fundraising event or simply online, make sure you mention how grateful you are for their previous donations and how they’ve helped your organization reach some of its goals for whatever your cause may be. Then explain how with their ongoing contributions you’re able to have a more dramatic impact on your cause and give examples of how you plan to use their continued support.

If they haven’t given before, then mention how grateful you are that they’ve shown interest in your charity and its mission and fundraising goals. Go on to give them specific examples of how fundraising donations have been used in the past, and the specific and tangible outcomes your charity has achieved. You want to vividly illustrate the value of each contribution no matter its size. These stories not only showcase the effectiveness of your organization, but also help the reader visualize the difference their own personal donation can make, making them feel part of the organization and the solution you’re working towards.

Additionally, when crafting these types of success stories, or your plans for the future, be sure to weave urgency into your letter. The reader needs to understand that the sooner they make a donation, the sooner you’re able to tackle the problems you’ve set out to correct. Whether it's a time-sensitive project, a critical funding gap, or an emerging opportunity, you want the reader to understand the urgency of your request and how their immediate donations can lessen the suffering that’s happening.

Just be sure to balance your urgency with a sense that things will get better, don’t make it all gloom and doom. You want your potential donor to understand with your organization's help and theirs, that things will get, and that their donation will help with creating solutions that everyone can benefit from.

Don’t forget, you want your message to be clear and to the point. Avoid jargon and complex language, or harping on the same points over and over. Your aim should be to communicate in simple, direct language that anyone can understand, regardless of their familiarity with your field. Writing your fundraising letters in this way helps to allow your supporters to feel more inclusive in your solutions as well as creating a personal bond so your readers can connect with your cause.

Learn the Best Appeal Letter Design and Format Tips

Another often overlooked aspect of these letters is their design and formatting. You want to always be sure that they look as appealing as their message. That means using fonts that are easy to read and are large enough not to be putting strain on your audience’s eyes. Font sizes should be somewhere in the vicinity of 20 to 24 pixels high within the text body, and common font types like Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman should be used. These are common, especially on the web or in email campaign writing so your reader is familiar and comfortable.

Your text should always start off with attention-grabbing headings and subheadings that make the reader want to read the body text beneath. Something like How We Saved Snoopy from Certain Death is much more compelling Another Dog Saved which doesn’t convey meaning or interest.

Heading and subheading should tell enough of the story in themselves to keep your audience wanting to read more. They are also what people who skim an article see, so make sure just reading the heading and subheadings is enough to get them hooked. One easy way to do this is after the letter is completed, write just your headings on a piece of paper and read them.

What would you get from reading just the headlines of your fundraiser letter? Would they grab your attention if you saw them on someone’s website? Do they include enough information to know what the letter is about? Do you sense a connection, or an immediacy to give in order to help solve the problems conveyed in the letter? Do you understand your appeal and what it will be used for? If not, you may need to re-think your headings and come up with better ones.

Formatting is also really important for a number of reasons. No one wants to look at walls of text. Including visuals like images, videos, graphs and charts can help break up large blocks of text while also giving more information to the reader.

Charts that show what your fundraising goals are and how far you’ve come can help create immediacy and gently persuade your supporters to donate more during fundraisers. Images showing the atrocious conditions the animals you are working to save come from are also compelling while also tugging at the person's heart strings.

Just be sure to also include the positive outcomes of your efforts as well. You need to be aware of balance. Using images to show the negatives and the positives can help the reader get a complete picture and demonstrate how their contributions can have a positive impact. Don’t cram a hundred images either. Look at the letter as a canvas, does it feel balanced, or does it seem too busy and distracting.

One really great way to get people to contribute is to include some sort of button or graphic as a call to action. Button colors and sizes should stand out against everything else that’s included in the letter, and you should place them somewhere in the beginning, middle and at the very end of the letter so if the individual feels compelled at any time during their reading to contribute, there is no question as to how they can do it.

Nonprofit Writing Techniques for Donor Persuasion

When crafting converting fundraising letters for your nonprofit, the power of persuasion is an essential technique to motivating your potential donors to contribute to your cause. Words that convey urgency, hope, and the potential for change can deeply resonate with the reader, compelling them to act now and become part of the change. That means using words and sentences that evoke strong emotional feelings in the reader, or using imagery so they can see the message as well as read the words. Fundraising letters that can use powerful language effectively can bring in a lot of new supporters as well as donors.

One way to make your stories even more impactful is to include social proof. By showcasing the support of others, whether through donor testimonials or quotes, partnerships with respected organizations, or statistics demonstrating the breadth of your existing support, you can significantly bolster the story’s persuasive power.

The idea here is to demonstrate your effectiveness in solving the problems you’ve set out to tackle, and to create trust between your organization and the reader. Furthermore this technique also taps into the psychological tendency of people to follow the actions of others, suggesting that there is a trusted community already investing in the cause is a powerful motivator and helps take away any uncertainty or concerns that your readers may have.

Incorporating testimonials and quotes directly from those impacted by your nonprofit's work or from prominent supporters adds a layer of authenticity and another way of demonstrating trust. Hearing directly from the individuals that have benefited from your charity through real-life improvements that resulted due to the donations of others makes your cause tangible and its impact undeniable.

Quotes can also serve to break up the text as far as formatting and draw the reader’s attention to key points, making them more memorable and impactful. They can also be great to share on social networks like X or Facebook throughout your fundraising campaigns. Where its possible to actually tag the people you’ve quoted for an even more intimate connection.

Finally, the principle of reciprocity can also be a helpful persuasion tool. Through acknowledging past supporters and their contributions and detailing how continued contributions can extend or enhance the benefits your organization has already achieved, your readers get a sense of being part of something bigger and more important. By making readers sense they are valued and appreciated, and by demonstrating that their help is crucial for your charity’s ongoing success, you’re able to create a deeper sense of commitment and willingness in your readers to support your cause.

Addressing Objections and Concerns When Requesting a Donation

No fundraising letter is going to ever be perfect and address every concern a reader may have, no matter how well it’s been crafted. But what we can do as writers is try to address any concerns and objections ahead of time by employing a few specific writing techniques. By addressing everything ahead of time, it helps to build trust and further encourages potential donors to answer your appeals and contribute.

Anticipating Donor Questions

Start by putting yourself in your potential donor’s shoes. Think about if you came across your fundraising campaign request in a letter in an email or by post, what would you think of it? What questions would you have concerning their business model and mission. The most common questions often arise around how donations will be used, the impact of their contributions, and the organization's credibility and effectiveness.

One way to nip this in the bud is to provide clear, concise information about your nonprofit's goals, specific projects or initiatives that their donations will directly support, and evidence of past successes including testimonials and quotes from others who have supported your cause to date. This all projects the feeling of transparency and accountability and helps your potential donors to feel much safer when deciding whether they should contribute to your fundraising strategy or not.

Providing Solutions and Reassurances

People want to know when they do decide to donate their hard earned cash isn’t just going to pay out crazy nonprofit executive salaries, or being used to buy fancy offices. They want reassurances that their money is actually going to support your mission directly. So provide this type of assurance by outlining exactly how their money is planned to be used, and what the expected impact on the problem will be.

For example, instead of a vague statement like "Your donation will help us make a difference," say "Your donation of $50 will feed a family for a week." This specifically states what their donations are going to, who will benefit and what the primary objective of your mission is all in one sentence. You should also be clear about how much of their donations goes directly to program activities rather than administrative costs. Also, if your organization has received any sort of awards, recognition, sponsorship or endorsements from credible sources, mention these as well to further reassure your potential donors of your legitimacy and the positive impact you’re achieving.

Overcoming Skepticism with Examples

Skepticism often comes from people’s concerns about your ability to effect change. This is because they still don’t have a strong connection with your nonprofit or understand the work it’s doing or your accomplishments. To overcome skepticism in your readers, the easiest thing to do is to add stories of the ways in which your organization has had positive effects on the problems you’re addressing. Personal stories are great for this as they add emotional connections and can be more persuasive than dry statistics alone. Additionally, including testimonials from past donors, volunteers, or directly from the individuals you’ve helped can add credibility and demonstrate the positive outcomes of your work.

You can go even further by offering options for donors to engage beyond financial contributions like allowing them to visit your projects, attending events, or volunteering. This way they get to see your work firsthand which can be an additional powerful motivator for accepting your donation request.

One note to mention here that can also be helpful is to make sure your appeal letter is clear about any matching gift opportunities, as the prospect of their donation being doubled by another donor or organization can be a strong incentive, and can also be a huge trust aspect if the corporation is a well known and respected one. You can even mention any peer to peer opportunities for those prospects that are super eager to help and like to take a leadership role.

Personalization and Follow-up Strategies - Make Donors Comfortable

One of the simplest things you can do to make any supporter get the feeling they're special in your correspondence is to customize your salutations and ending with hand written signatures if at all possible. Opening a letter that addresses you by your proper name and not a ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘To Whom it May Concern’ can make a huge difference right in the first line. And the same goes for the closing signature as well. A letter personally signed by the founder, upper management or chairman of the board of your organization means a lot more than some John Smith they have no idea if they even exist or not.

Furthermore, as the nonprofit sector continues to expand each year, so do the amount of charities looking to secure new donors. This means more competition than ever before. So don’t be surprised if it takes multiple letters or emails to get your potential donors to engage with your organization. But once they do support your fundraising efforts with a donation, don’t forget to followup with them immediately to continue the donor retention process.

This is when a well written thank you for your donation letter and other forms of donor communication is in order. You can follow that link to get some great ideas for these types of letters. They don’t take a lot of work, but getting a heartfelt letter thanking someone for their donation and telling them how it will be used to further your charity’s impact often means a lot.

So do other types of follow ups that let them know of other ways they can help get involved like volunteer work, or community outreach. People want to feel involved with charitable organizations that align with their own views, and keeping up with your personalized communications or even a weekly newsletter they can download with them can greatly impact on their willingness to provide continued contributions for any fundraising activities you decide to hold.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you start a letter that is meant for fundraising?

The best way to start your letter is to customize your salutations rather than just using Sir or Ma'am. Use their name and a heartfelt greeting to get off to a great start when making your appeal!

How long should a fundraising letter be?
Your letters should ideally be one page if they're written on physical stationary, or the same equivalent if it’s an email or digital ecard. Keeping it concise shows you respect the reader's time while still conveying your message effectively.

How do you make a fundraising letter stand out?
Use compelling storytelling, personalize where possible, include impactful images or testimonials, and make your call to action or appeal clear and compelling.

What types of stories should be included in a fundraising letter?
Include stories that showcase the direct impact of donations, highlighting personal testimonials or narratives that illustrate how your supporter’s contributions make a real difference.

How do you create a sense of urgency in a fundraising letter?
Clearly communicate why donations are needed now, such as a specific deadline, a current peer to peer opportunity that will eventually expire, or a particular situation that requires immediate support for services like for flood or earthquake victims, damage to a school, or possibly a fundraising effort like an auction or other type of event.

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Nonprofit Fundraising
Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.