Five Maples’ Direct Mail Fundraising Blog

Use these 3 mental tricks to write great fundraising letters

Too many fundraising letters sound like memos–impersonal, “From the Desk of the President.”

Would you donate to a desk, if it asked you?

Remember that making a donation is an emotional decision. It’s personal, and that requires a personal appeal from you, the person the donor trusts to do good work.

So, use these three copywriter tricks to ensure your personal voice connects to your reader’s emotions.

1. Visualize the person you’re writing to.
You think that you are writing to donors. You are not. You’re writing to a donor. You’re writing to each donor individually. Don’t think about a group as you write–you’ll write impersonally. Imagine one specific typical donor, and imagine you’re writing to her.

Then you’ll write: “I need your help,” not “The museum needs your support.”

2. Make the letter from yourself–not your organization.
Don’t write a memo. Don’t use organization speak. Don’t confuse yourself with a corporation no matter how many staff you have, how big your budget is, how impressive your title is.

Read through your draft and ask yourself these questions:

  • Could I replace the word ‘we’ with ‘I’?
    • I look forward to welcoming you as a member…,” not “We look forward…
    • I think you’ll agree…,” not “We think you’ll agree…
    • I knew you would want to know…,” not “We thought you would like to know…
    • We couldn’t have said it better ourselves…,” becomes “I couldn’t have said it better myself.
  • How many times did I use the word you or your? (Hint: Once is not enough.)
    • I know you want to help. Here’s how.
    • Join your classmates…
    • You made these scholarships possible…
  • Can I use the recipient’s name once in the body of the text?
    • “Gary, will you renew your membership today by returning the enclosed membership card?”
    • “Gary, your gift last year was so helpful!”

3. Write like you are speaking to your friend.
This gives you a natural, direct voice. The power company, cable company, or auto dealership is not writing a personal letter. That’s what makes you different. You are writing because you share a common passion: you’re friends; fellow missionaries; comrades in the struggle; sharers of the same values; joint builders of a better world, city, neighborhood, school.

  • Not “Our donors were so generous,” but “You did it! You made it happen!”
  • Not “We hope that you will want to offer us your absolutely essential support and that you will consider supporting the Annual Fund this year,” but “Gary, will you send a gift of $50 today? Here’s what we’ll do with it.”

You can learn more about writing great copy from classic texts by Robert Bly, Stephen Hitchcock, and Mal Warwick, or from the websites of Bob Burdenski, Tom Ahern, and Alan Sharpe.

Still not sure you have the time or skills to write and layout the best fundraising letter? Our letter writing and editing service can help! Click here for more details.

Need help getting out your spring fundraising appeal?

Whether you need lists, data-work, printing and mailing, or help with writing, design and editing, we are ready to help you! Call me at 800-437-7780 ext 104, or Email Me Today!

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