Donation request letters can be used as just one part of a fundraising campaign, or they can be the campaign in its entirety.
Many organizations prefer to run their campaign entirely through donation request letters because they
- require few volunteers, but reach a large number of potential donors
- directly target interested donors and supporters
- are easily managed
- involve little (monetary) investment
- are a way to run a relatively quick fundraising campaign, while providing a means for continued financial support as well
However, there is somewhat of a downside to running a fundraising campaign through donation requests. The biggest drawback is that people today are inundated with mail and emails, and have little time to read it all. Even when they do open an unsolicited letter, they will often only skim it to find out if it is something they are interested in reading in-depth.
These hurdles can hinder your efforts some, but there are also ways to overcome them. Your best bet is to take your time to carefully craft your donation request letter. By being clear, concise and informative in your donation request letter, you’re setting yourself up for the best response to your fundraising campaign:
1. Identify yourself and make it obvious.
If readers don’t see a name or organization right away, they might write your letter off as just more junk mail. (Consider adding info like a short mission statement.)
2. Start with some good news, and keep focused on benefits, while still communicating your need.
For example, you might start off with how far your organization has come, or how much good you were able to do with the funds raised last year, or coming in ‘under budget’ on a successful fundraising campaign.
Continue to talk about how much more you could do, how many people could be helped, how much education could be improved etc. if you just had the financial resources to do so. Any quotes from previous donors, or beneficiaries can be very powerful and should be added as well.
3. Be specific with your needs.
State a dollar-figure goal for your campaign. You might even say how far away from that goal you are. You might also suggest donation amounts, (such as $5, $10, $50, $100, etc.); always state that any donation will be accepted and appreciated.
4. Outline a plan of action.
Tell donors specifically what you plan to do with their money.
5. Remind donors that they are your only income source.
They might be your only income source for your whole campaign, or for a specific phase of it.
6. Repeat yourself.
Ask for donations at least three times in your letter. These should come at the beginning, middle, and end of your letter so that people who are just skimming will catch on somewhere.
7. Be conversational.
You are a human asking another human for money. Make the donor feel that they are being talked to personally, not that they are an unknown money bag. Include personal quotations from people who have benefited from your fundraising in some way, or people who are in need and will be served by your efforts.
8. Make your donation request letter easy to read.
Edit, edit and edit again for typos, spelling errors and clarity. Break up too long sentences and too long paragraphs into easier to read bites. Use subheads, bullets and make use of white space.
9. Create urgency.
Tie in your request with a deadline, like an upcoming holiday, or a tournament for an athletic event.
10. Make it easy to donate.
Include a tear-off coupon and a stamped return envelope with your donation request. Make sure it ties in with your donation request letter and other materials included. If possible, also offer online donation possibilities and/or a phone number.
When you keep in mind the lives, desires, needs and concerns of your busy donors, and keep your ‘eye on the prize’, you will easily be able to craft a hard-hitting, productive donation request letter. By using these suggestions as your guide, your letter will be personal, informative, compassionate, and it will produce results, netting you big returns for your investment in time and energy.
Visit our Fundraising Letters category for information about donation request letters.