Writing a Fundraising Letter

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?)

This is from a fundraiser to which I gladly donated.

This is from a fundraiser to which I gladly donated.

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.

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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.

 

What Are You Doing to Build Your Business?

If you want to make a living as a writer, there’s one thing you must do – take action.

Take any action that will lead to generating an income from writing.

Stop stalling and do something. Now. Today.

Believe me, I know how easy it is to procrastinate:

  • To plan plan plan so no detail is overlooked
  • To read yet another well-intentioned best-selling book on how to be a successful entrepreneur
  • To organize the office, the desk, and the file cabinets
  • To work toward the moment when you can finally say ‘I’m ready’

It’s incredibly easy to do anything, but take action building the business.

It could be fear of failure or fear of hard work. Who knows.

Take Action!But to make a living at writing, it’s absolutely imperative to constantly – and that means daily – find some task that directly leads toward earning an income and to complete that task. 

It’s absolutely possible to generate money from writing. But you have to work toward it consistently.

Do you want to write for magazines? Then submit queries consistently.

Do you want to write for newspapers? Then pitch ideas to editors on a regular basis.

Do you want to write for businesses? Submit proposals on a regular basis.

  • Make phone calls.
  • Send LOIs (letters of intent).
  • Network with people you want to work with or for, or can help you make those connections.

Just so you know, rejection comes to everyone. Use the rejections to improve the next query, the next pitch, the next proposal, the next phone call, the next letter, the next interaction.

Know that every step you take toward building an income stream gets you closer to your goal.

Take a moment to evaluate your actions.

Are you in constant motion toward building a writing business?

 

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She consistently reaches out to new potential clients for projects of all sizes. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook,  Google+, and LinkedIn.

Worthy of attention

broken heartYears ago, I read an essay about how a person would make a point of always complimenting each dog to its owner as they passed by.

“What a good dog you have.”
“Such a handsome fellow.”

They did this because after doing so, the owner would often reach down and pat the dog. It was a way to give the dog some love from a stranger.

To this day, I always compliment people on their dogs and yup, those dogs get a little more attention.

Everyone likes to feel that they have something that’s worthy of attention.

Eventually I figured out that if this worked for dogs, it would probably work for other things. There’s not a baby out there that I won’t say to the parents – how strong she looks, what beautiful eyes he has, or simply what a clever looking child you have there.

The parents smile and usually pat the baby or hold it a little closer.

Compliments are a gift, I’m not saying you have to be insincere (that’s not a gift, that’s a scam), what I am saying is that if you can find something positive to say about a situation, a person, or an animal, go ahead and say it.

Yesterday I received this comment on my blog post about telling stories:

The things I love most about your “stories” are that they are so real and believable. They are stories about the simple, ordinary things in life that we often ignore or miss in the hurried-up hustle and bustle of today’s world. They often take me back to the yesterdays of raising my six children and often call up memories of even earlier times when I was growing up in the country in East Texas with my five siblings, in the days of chicken yards, gathering eggs, running from the rooster, or sometimes encountering a long chicken snake in the hen house, one of which didn’t like the fact that I got to the eggs in the nests before him and slithered down out of the rafters as I was stepping out of the little house. He dropped down over my shoulder and into the egg basket. Needless to say, in my surprise and horror, the basket, eggs, snake and I went in all different directions. Before I could regain my senses to run, my dad came running into the chicken yard with his gun, thinking I had encounters a different kind of egg stealing critter that often raided the hen house. When he saw the snake and the fact that it was harmless to humans, except a 9 year little girl, guess who got a spanking for over-reacting and breaking all the eggs. I love your stories because they help me find my way back “home” through my own memories and stories of my own, but also the stories my mom and dad used to tell of their childhood. Keep telling us the stories, Wendy, and God bless you.

You can’t imagine how much this meant to me. When we write, we expose our creations, our babies to the world. We’re nervous and wonder how they will be received. When I sat down to write this morning, it was easy to smile and hold my work a little closer because everyone, myself included, likes to feel that they have something that’s worthy of attention.

 

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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.

 

Not worse, just different

A large part of this blog is sharing what it is that writers actually do (when we are not communing with spiders.) If you’ve been following this blog then you know I have recently finished a manuscript and have sent it out to some literary agents. While I have gotten a few nibbles, most of them, like the proverbial big one, have gotten away (although it is still being evaluated by one agent and I have a slew of others to still try)

No one loves me, I thought, I think I’ll go eat worms. Then I got a reply from an acquiring editor for a publisher – she liked my e-proposal. She liked my presentation. She invited me to send a full hard-copy proposal.

I need to prepare what is, essentially, a “board meeting quality” presentation on my book including:
• Letter of introduction – who referred me, qualifications
• Book description – one paragraph (elevator pitch)
• Why this book is needed and who the audience will be
• Current competitors
• Platform and credentials
• Table of contents
• Length, general appearance, photographic and illustrative requirements
• Previously published writing samples
• 50 pages of manuscript

Because I have a ton of online marketing experience, I’m also going to add a section on:
• Marketing plan

And because I’m pretty good friends with a number of people in my field (chickens), I’m also going to add:
• Endorsements/blurbs

I thought I could get all of this done during this week but, although I know where most of this information is, it’s important that I don’t just throw everything together. I need to present a polished and finished package that will wow the socks off of everyone. You can bet that this puppy will have a title page, TOC, and will be housed in a protective binder.

It will take a dedicated few days to get it all done, and that’s what I’ll be doing this coming weekend.

Keep this information in mind when you get to the point of querying your project. There’s more than one route to publication. Everyone has their own way of doing things and, because this is an acquisition editor and not a literary agent, the submission requirements are vastly different.

Not better, not worse, just not the same.

IMG_20140709_150708944_HDR

 

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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.

This is why I teach

Yesterday was the second to the last session for my Technical Writing class.

A-Plus-StudentBack on the first day of class, I asked the students if any of them thought they would be learning something useful out of this class.

No one, not a single student raised their hand. Technical Writing was a required course. They were in the class because they had to be not because they wanted to be.

The first day of class, I asked them to write a short paper. No one wrote more than 2 paragraphs and there was no rhyme or reason to what they wrote. It was nearly impossible for them.

This is good, I thought, I can work with this.

I’ve spent the semester teaching them how to organize their writing, how to identify the audience, tone, topic and purpose (ATTP.)

We’ve talked about brainstorming ideas on a topic and then grouping those ideas under appropriate headers.

We’ve talked about starting with an introduction and ending with a conclusion.

Week by week, through the use of examples and stories, I tried to get my students to understand how important organization of information was when writing. How easy it made writing.

Yesterday in class, I passed out a handout with instructions on “How to phone an elected official.” Outline a paper for me on this topic, I told them.

Initially I heard groans, but then I saw them get to work. They underlined and made notations on the handout.

On the white board, I took them through the steps listed below. They first identified the ATTP.

Then using the handout they brainstormed topics. Once they did that, they grouped the topics and realizing that some information was missing in the “order of events” (they added a section on how to find a representative’s phone number) they added additional topics.

Finally they put the topics into an order that made sense (they decided that chronological sequence was most effective) and surrounded that list with an introduction and conclusion.

Within an hour, I had these students, who had thought they wouldn’t learn anything devise a solid outline for a short paper. All they needed to do was to write 2-3 paragraphs under each identified topic and they would have a first draft.

If they then added quotes and stories, they would have written a “how-to article.”

I told them that there was not one student in the class who couldn’t take this outline and give me a draft the next day. Through organization of information, we had turned what early in the semester has seemed like an impossible task into one that was bite-sized and very doable.

It was the look on their faces when I pointed this out, that has made all of my work this past semester worth the time and effort it has taken.

My class of students, none of whom had wanted to be there, have learned.

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This is an organizational handout I gave my students.

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The 6 Steps for Reader Centered Writing
KEEP THIS HANDOUT FOR ALL TIME

Step 1: Analyze your readers. Determine ATTP
Step 2: Outline your information. Brainstorm your ideas. Write them down, use post-its, or draw them out in a web outline.
Step 3: Group like information under headlines.
Step 4: Sequence your ideas. Figure out the order in which you present information based on your ATTP. Include abstract, introduction, and conclusion.
Step 5: Write the first draft. Write at least 2-3 paragraphs under each header
Step 6: Edit for clarity, conciseness, and accuracy. Check facts, spelling, definitions, and if you have missed information that you assumed your reader knew. Make sure the document matches your ATTP (if the purpose is to convince have you done that? If it’s to ask for action is that clear?)

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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.

Self-marketing does not have to be icky

I was recently talking to a friend of mine about self-marketing.

self-marketing does not require gloves

self-marketing does not require gloves

She readily admitted that she was not strong at self-marketing her book, in fact, when she said the word “self-marketing” a visible shiver went down her body. Too many people see “self-marketing” as being boastful, as something that is icky and not to be touched unless wearing rubber gloves.

Oh not true. So not true.

Self-marketing is a chance for you to share the enthusiasm you have for your work. You don’t have to say that you are the greatest thing that has set foot on the planet earth, but you do have to say that your *idea* is a worthy one, deserving of being looked at.

I love to self-market.

It’s how I got my first egg noticed (I put it up on ebay at a starting price of $729.93 because that’s how much it cost us to get to that first, golden egg.)

It’s how a story about our chicken painting a picture with her feet which was then auctioned off to help a local playground fund got picked up and shared around the world.

It’s how I’ve been interviewed on TV for things I write about.

Basically, I see self-marketing as a way to spread my word to others, in short – it’s a way to teach.

So what can you do to promote your work?

Make it timely
If there is a current event that ties in your subject then use it. Have blackberries just been discovered to contain the elixir to longevity? Then write a press release about that finding and provide a link to your blackberry cookbook published last year and then send it out to every news agency you can.

Figure out how to connect what you’ve done with what’s going on.

Create anniversaries
It’s been six months since your book was published. Have a ½ birthday party and create some buzz by having a give-away or contest. Has your book just come out in paperback – why, have another party! Give people a reason to notice your accomplishments.

Invite others to participate
I recently met Ridley Pearson who was on tour promoting his Kingdom Keepers series. For his last book, he invited fans to submit paragraphs they thought should be in the book. Out of the 55K entries, he and his team chose 60 paragraphs to use in the final book.

Did you see that first number? 55 – thousand, that’s a lot of attention for something that hasn’t even been published yet. Smart guy, that Ridley.

Promote fan fiction on your site or hold a photo contest – just be sure to reward people for their involvement.

Contact any and all publication editors you know and offer to write an article
Editors need content, if you can write about a topic, your work will be considered. Sure, you might not get paid, but you can keep it short and in your bio make sure that you point to your blog, website, and recently published book.

Be sure to include good quality photos with the articles and those editors will become your new best friends.

Get involved in the community
Donate copies of your book for local auctions. Consider teaching a writing workshop. Create a basket of items in your genre (chickens, anyone) for a raffle. Get your work involved in a fund-raiser.

Don’t just stop at donating *things* – join local groups or civic organizations. Word of mouth is an important way to get people interested in what you do. You wouldn’t want to talk only about yourself but, if in my case, the topic of chickens came up, you can bet that I would have something to say on the matter.

Talk, talk, share, and talk some more about your topic and your work, people’s natural interest will do the rest.

 

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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)

Everything Must Lead to Your Final Conclusion

Everything, absolutely everything must lead to your final conclusion.

This is “rule” I was teaching my Technical Writing students as we were discussing feasibility reports.

If the information is not necessary, don’t include it. If the information is too long (charts, graphs, tables) and takes away from the final message then either remove it or put it an appendix to be looked at later, but take it out of the report.

Never let anything get in the way of your final conclusion that should lead to an action. (A feasibility report usually looks at various scenarios and makes a recommendation on the best one based on presented facts.)

ConclusionWe discussed creating a feasibility report on the college getting a baseball field. First we brainstormed header topics and then put them into a preliminary order. Because most people are uncomfortable with money, the students put the “Cost” section near the bottom.

However, with further discussion they realized that the audience (the President of the College) who would be reading this report would be most interested about how much would it cost and what the return on investment would be. As a class, once they worked it out, the cost section got moved up to the top of the report and some sections that they though were important (School Spirit) fell down to sub-headers, if even that, under other topics.

It’s the same thing with a novel, I told them (also acknowledging that this was not a creative writing class) you need to put the most important information up front. This will be what grabs your reader and it will set the stage for your story to continue.

And then every scene that follows should lead to your final conclusion.

It’s when you add extra information that you bore and confuse your reader, begging them to leave your work. As a writer, you just don’t want to do that.
Writing is writing, I tell my students, oh sure, there are different styles, like Technical Writing which requires specific formatting and chunking of information, but for any message to be clearly made, no matter what style of writing you choose, you still need to be:
• Clear
• Concise
• Writing to your audience, and
• Giving them what they care about

Just like in a feasibility report, if the information is not necessary in your story then don’t include it.

See? In many way, writing is writing – it all follows similar guidelines to make sure you get your point across most effectively.

Hmm, Perhaps my next challenge should be to write a novel using Technical Writing techniques.

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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)