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Anytime you’re starting a new fundraising campaign, using swipe files can be a huge time saver when it comes to creating fundraising letters, printed or e-mail, and other materials, like advertising or website copy. They let you quickly put together campaigns without having to start from scratch each time. They are also extremely useful for groups who rely on new volunteers year after year: new volunteers can quickly educate themselves, get the info they need and assemble materials for new campaigns efficiently.


file folder


What is a swipe file?

A swipe file can be defined as “a collection of noteworthy examples of various items of interest that can be used by a writer or editor to promote creativity or to assist in developing copy for publication” or, as per Wikipedia.org: “A swipe file is a collection of tested and proven ads and sales letters. Keeping a swipe file (templates) is a common practice used by advertising copywriters and creative directors as a ready reference of ideas for projects.”

For example, a swipe file for your fundraising group would contain examples of fundraising efforts that were well executed and successful, specifically copy that was written for mailings that yielded the best results and feedback. It would also contain snippets of ideas you or your group members come up with throughout the year, so they’re ready to be considered once a new campaign starts.

Also read: Should Your PTO File for Nonprofit Status?

Examples of what to keep in your swipe file:


  • copies of well written fundraising letters for print and e-mail campaigns from previous campaigns
  • copies of previous newsletters, posters and other marketing materials
  • mottos, tag lines
  • specific phrases, expressions and ideas collected throughout the year
  • descriptions of varying lengths of your group’s goals and successes
  • examples of other groups’ successful campaigns
  • sample fundraising letters


Why use them?

While you want to avoid using the exact same words in your communications to your supporters, you don’t have to come up with completely original ideas every time. Keep in mind though that using familiar wording in your campaigns (for example when describing your group’s mission and goals) will actually help with establishing trust and ‘brand’ recognition.

What can swipe files do for you?

They can help you find the best words to say what you want to say in newsletters, donation requests and other written materials. You can borrow your own past words or the words of others to convey your message. There are many resources both in books and on the internet (writing fundraising letters).

There is always more to learn about how to make a fundraiser as effective as possible. Swipe files can relay stories of what techniques have worked for others and why. You do not need to learn all your lessons through trial and error!

With swipe files, you can give your best effort the first time with the help of those who have successfully conducted fundraisers before you.

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