Our agency has the privilege and responsibility to raise funds for organizations from around the world that do amazing work. We learn the organization’s voice, analyze their donor database, develop a multi-channel fundraising strategy, remove the friction points for giving, and much more.
One of the essential components is writing an appeal that will inspire the giving response to sustain the crucial programs of our clients. There are certain criteria that must be met in order for the appeal to be effective.
I would like to share a checklist that you can use to check your next appeal letter against before you send it.
>> Have you outlined a compelling problem and a solution?
The first few sentences need to grab the reader’s attention. Speak to their values and present a compelling reason to respond. The problem or need that you want help with needs to be very clear.
For example: Children rescued from child trafficking need a safe place to receive food, care, and education. Please help!
After you have clearly stated the problem or need, then you can explain the solution. Donors want their giving to make a difference and be a part of solving the problem. You want to make it easy for a donor to tell their friends what they are helping to accomplish like, “I help dig wells in Africa so people can have safe drinking water.” or “I help provide groceries for needy single moms in New York City.”
After reading the appeal, if a solution statement (“I help….”) cannot easily be determined, then the solution is still unclear and needs to be refined.
>> Are you speaking to the heart, not the head?
People love to hear stories, not stats.
You need to share with your donor how their giving makes a difference in the lives of people you serve. One of the strongest motivators is to share a real-life testimony of a changed life as result of your organization’s work. This is why storytelling is so powerful.
>> Do you have an urgent deadline?
You should provide a reason why the donor needs to respond this month rather than later. For a homeless program, winter’s fast approach may be the pressing deadline. As we approach the end of the year, the tax deduction can be a driving deadline. The key is deadlines help motivate a response.
>> Are you being donor-focused?
Don’t make the appeal about you. Make it about the donor.
Express sincere appreciation to your donors and let them know they are valuable partners in your efforts. A great way to convey this is to begin with, “Because of you….”
>> Are you reminding donors of the benefits that come from giving?
Include some benefits that the donors can experience from giving.
- Tax benefits
- Fulfilling biblical principles
- Doing good and feeling good about yourself
- Receiving something you value — an autographed book, exclusive access to web content, or a USB drive full of digital resources.
>> Did you make your call to action upfront?
It is important not to be shy or vague in your appeal letter, so ask what you want the donor to do, and do it in the first few paragraphs of the letter.
I see some organizations wait until the very end of the letter to make their ask, and at times they apologetically ask for money. No, No, No! Ask early and confidently so you can repeat your ask two or three more times in the letter. If you believe what your organization does makes a difference in the lives of people, then you will be unashamed to ask.
>> Is your letter easy to read?
Avoid long paragraphs, use simple words, short sentences, and write at the 6th-grade level. Also, use serif fonts (e.g. Times New Romans and Courier) and 14 point. Leave plenty of white space around your copy so the letter doesn’t feel heavy and laborious to read.
Use subheads, boldface, italics, and underline to emphasize key points. Good direct mail is highly skimmable.
>> Do you have a P.S.?
I have heard it said that readers read the P.S. before the content of the letter. It can influence whether the reader will read the rest of the letter, so use the P.S. wisely. I suggest giving the main reason for giving and the ask in the P.S. It has to be concise – only a couple of sentences.
Let Infinity Concepts use our expertise in raising funds for your organization so you can focus on the work you are called to do. Click here or Call us at 724-733-1200.