In part one of this series, we covered some of the basics surrounding a fundraising letter, including some of the types of letters you will send out. We also discussed why fundraising can be such a critical part of raising funds for a nonprofit and some of the funding models that exist. Now, we will talk about exactly what goes into drafting this letter and how you can optimize it for success.
To reiterate the elements we brought up in the first part of this series, here’s a list of all the parts to a successful fundraising letter.
- Great storytelling
- Clear definition of the problem you are solving
- A straightforward description of the goal involved
- Ensuring that “your ask” is simple and to-the-point
- A clear, respectful tone throughout the letter
1. Great Storytelling Is a Game Changer
Storytelling is the way that you connect with your reader. People react to stories, especially ones that make them empathize with the author. Are you a nonprofit pet shelter looking to raise funds? Highlight the background of your organization, talk about dogs that have been saved, and make it compelling. As for the copywriting involved in this part, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Make sure that your writing is easy to read. Of course, this means using proper grammar and spelling, as well as proper word usage. Utilize the simplest form of words over more complex phrases, unless they are industry-specific. When possible use shorter sentences. From a reader’s perspective, it makes reading your letter easier.
- Get to the point as early as possible: You’re going to want to make your points clearly throughout your piece of writing. This means being clear and direct.
- Know your audience: In order to tell your story effectively in a way that connects with the reader, it’s critical to know who your audience is. Be conscious of communicating in a way that’s impactful to that reader.
- Use examples: One of the best ways to tell a story is to be specific. This can include using examples of the people, animals, or community helped by your work, so the potential donor knows exactly where their funds will be going.
2. Clearly Define the Problem You Are Solving
Are you an organization focused on helping to provide shelter to those who are unhoused? Do you offer free or low-priced nutrition support to people with diabetes? Are you trying to offer low-cost medical treatments to pets whose owners can’t afford them? Okay, so that’s critical for the reader to know. Even more so, you’re going to want to clearly define the problem that you are addressing in your letter.
Are you trying to raise funds for a new oven to feed people in need? Or are you trying to build a new playground in an underserved area? Are you trying to hold a fundraiser for general expenses so that your organization can continue the important work that you’re focused on?
Be as specific as possible with details as well in your fundraising letter. Include aspects such as
- Funds needed
- Time frames needed to complete said project
Be clear about who is being helped by these funds. People want to hear more about where the money they are giving will be directed and the problems you are solving for other people. People care about helping other people.
3. What Goals Are You Working to Accomplish
This section is a little different from the problem you are trying to solve. While your organization might be trying to solve a bigger problem or issue overtime, your fundraiser might be trying to achieve a different short-term goal.
Are you trying to hit a specific funding number? Maybe you are trying to build a playground? Are you trying to make sure that the dogs your organization cares for can receive veterinary care? The more specific that you can be here the more likely it is that you can be direct with the reader. There’s a lot that goes into this, so make sure that you are clear on this before you even start drafting your letter.
Something you can do that may help make this a bit easier, is write down this goal (or goals if there’s more than one included) beforehand. On that list, which can be a bullet list or any other kind, put down as many details as needed to get clear. Then you’re going to want to shorten and simplify this as much as possible.
4. What Are You Asking For?
This seems like a no-brainer for sure, but what exactly are you asking the reader to do? When it comes to copy, the clearer you are here the better.
Are you looking to have the reader learn more to donate in the future? Do you need them to sign up to volunteer? Is it imperative that they send funds now for an emergency project? Be super clear on your ask.
In copywriting this is a piece of microcopy often referred to as a call-to-action, where you give your audience something to do. On a website, this might utilize some form of directive copy together with a button that says something like: click here to learn more, donate here, or something similar.
You can use this when it comes to a physical or digital fundraising letter as well. Make your ask incredibly clear. See the example below.
“Contribute to our emergency fundraiser to help the pups in our shelter” should be followed with a call to action, such as “Donate Now.”
Be Kind and Respectful in Your Tone
No matter what you are writing in your letter, kindness is key. When you’re asking for something, it is almost always a good rule of thumb to be kind and respectful. Be appreciative that the other person is even taking the time to read this letter that you’re sending out.
Make sure that at some point you are expressing gratitude for the other person’s time. Make sure that the vibe of your letter is one that’s respectful of the reader, and uses proper, and considerate language. One of the best ways to ensure that you can tell how your verbiage is coming across is by reading it aloud.