With 1.5 million nonprofits now registered in the United States, your fundraising letter needs to be perfect for your nonprofit to compete with the rest. Do not stress, however!
While you do need to put a good amount of thought into writing a fundraising letter, you do not need to rigidly stick to a set formula or even hire a development professional. As long as you include these five basic components in clear, clean prose, your fundraising letter will be successful.
Be sincere throughout the letter
The most important component to your fundraising letter is using a sincere, humble tone that conveys passion, dedication, and service. Those are all very lofty ideas, making this component the most difficult part. Here are a few tips to generate simple “sincere” language:
- Use qualifiers: “We really need your support this year.” “This year we will help more and more children fulfill their biggest dreams.”
- Use clichés: Though your college English or Writing 101 professor told you to never use clichés, good ones help make your writing personal. You are not trying to win a writing award; you are trying to relate simply and sentimentally to people within a society. Clichés are clichés because all within a culture understand them. They also keep your tone more conversational and personal. “We are a long ways away from our goal still to send 15 girls to Robotics camp this summer, and we need your help.”
- Use first person: The letter should be signed personally from a board member, champion, or executive in your organization, and it should be very personal. Go beyond “we” and use an “I” testimonial if you can, bringing it home as much as possible. “I support BTH because I have seen my kids not just get better grades after attending a few months of tutoring, but also actually have fun doing their geometry homework at the kitchen table each night.”
Be thankful more than once
Thank your donor at least two times – three or four times is better. Thank them for their past gift, their volunteer support, their presence in the community as supporters of your cause, their attendance of your events, and most importantly for their imminent gift.
- “Thank you for being a community champion for abandoned dogs with your support of our partner, the SPCA.”
- “Thank you for bringing your family to our Paws 4 All adoption festival last year.”
- “Thank you for liking us on Facebook and sharing our mission with your friends.”
- “Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and for supporting us in housing our homeless friends.”
Show accomplishments to prove you’re capable
You want to tell accomplishments to prove that you are capable of alleviating community need, but you do not want to brag about your work. This idea is critical in your communication because you need to appear capable but needy. If an organization seems very organized and large, it can seem like the gift is not really necessary. Aim for small, enumerative, and picturesque examples of success:
- “We planted herb gardens with 11 different schools throughout the county this past year.”
- “Our volunteers collected 20,000 bottle caps for our mural art project, “Get Up and Dance” at Douglas High School.”
- “We delivered half a million bowls of soup to children in food insecure homes.”
Focus on the need for your work and their donation
Need should be wrapped throughout your proposal; it is the thesis and the crux of your appeal. You want to think outside the box and really make your work relevant to something pressing. Ask yourself, “What are the most pressing community issues right now and how are we uniquely addressing them with our work?” For examples:
- If a hurricane recently devastated a neighborhood in your town link yourself to it and how you are a necessary piece of the community puzzle. “When Cosmo hit, we were able to mobilize our volunteer dog walker base to hit the streets and collect 212 displaced pets for temporary housing.”
- If you have a high dropout rate in your city, show how you are helping keep kids in school even if it is not your primary organizational goal. “97% of students in our “Be a Guitar Hero” program not only graduate from high school, but go on to higher education.”
Use a specific goal in your ask
Never ask for “general support”; always link your pitch to a specific, measurable organizational goal. And always show the funding need with a deliverable time frame to make their gift matter. Examples:
- “Our goal is to send 30% more inner city kids to camp this year, and, by April, we need 50 $100 gifts from our friends in our generous support network to do so.”
- “We can serve nearly twice as many bowls of soup to our less fortunate neighbors this Christmas if we raise $9,000 by December 15. Your gift of $250 would be 1,000 meals!”
No matter how you choose to organize your information, as long as you focus on including these five components in your fundraising letters, and doing so in a coherent, concise way, you are sure to boost your donation rate!