I have to write a fundraiser letter for an organization I work with. As I sit here thinking about what to put in the letter, I thought I’d share some of my personal guidelines when writing such a piece (after all, writing a fund raising letter is simply another writing assignment, right?)
Write to your audience
You need to write to your audience, not above or below, but to. Sure, you will more than likely have some readers who will fall outside of the “average reader”, but for the most part, you want to hit the critical mass and so you aim for them. The organization should have statistical information on their current supporters, that information was collected for a reason, use it.
Use “you” and not “I”
When someone reads a letter asking for money and support, they don’t want to hear about you. They want to know how this will impact them. Essentially they want to know why they should even be bothered with the organization. Rule of thumb here? It’s not about you (the writer) it’s about them (the readers.)
Tell a story that involves a real person or situation
Everyone loves a story. Try to include an example of how the organization is working or improving the lives of others. Once you include a story of another person’s journey you have made that very important human-to-human connection with your reader.
Clearly explain the benefits
Everyone needs money these days, so be sure to clearly explain what a donation would help accomplish (and just having extra money is *not* a benefit.) Will it help patients with medical costs? Supply people with clean water? The more specific you can be with the benefits, the more people can visualize how their money will be used and the more willing they are to donate.
Also, mention if people will receive something if they donate – people are often more willing to contribute if they know they will get something in return.
Be clear about what you are asking for and when
Are you asking for money? Then say so. Don’t beat around the bush, say “we are looking for a financial donation from our supporters by this DATE.” Be sure to include a date so that people don’t put your letter down with the intention that they’ll get to it someday. Those are the letters that get lost.
Likewise, if you are looking for volunteers or material donations, go ahead and ask. Don’t waste anyone’s time by being vague and hoping that they’ll understand what you are getting at. Trust me – it’s not rude to ask for what you need in a fundraising letter.
Make it short and simple
People don’t have much time. A fundraising letter that goes on for page after page is one that is likely not going to be read. Keep it short, get in there, introduce yourself, explain the benefits, identify what you are asking for, and then thank them for their continued support. In and out – it’s the way to go.
Additionally make it easy to read
Long, dense paragraphs are tough to read. Keep your paragraphs short, include white space, use headers and include a graphic or two. These days a lot of people skim documents, you can use this to your benefit by grouping your information and using techniques like bulleted lists.
Fundraising letters are just like any other writing assignment. You’ll do fine if you pre-plan, organize, and do your homework.
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.