Direct Mail

Fundraising Letters Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations

By 9 May 2022May 19th, 2022No Comments
fundraising letters

Fundraising Letters for Nonprofit Organizations Best Practices

If you have ever interacted or worked with a nonprofit organization, you must be familiar with fundraising letters. However, if it is your first time learning about fundraising letters, you should first understand its purpose.

A fundraising letter is typically used to communicate the needs of an organization and request support from its recipients. Include all the necessary details in your letter, so the recipient knows how and why they need to help you.

fundraising letters

A well-drafted fundraising letter is capable of doing the following:

  • Share your story
  • Highlight the need for the recipient’s help
  • Show the impact the supporters can make

Furthermore, a fundraising letter need not necessarily request a donation from its recipients. Sometimes the support you need maybe volunteer time, sponsorships, or something else. It is not easy to create a fundraising letter because of its unique characteristics.

We hope to reveal everything you need to know about fundraising letters through this article. Starting with how you can write a compelling fundraising letter, this article will explain everything you need to know about fundraising letters.

As you read on, we will take you through examples of how to ask for donations. You can identify what is lacking in your fundraising letters and rectify them through the tips and insights discussed in the article.  The different fundraising letter examples provided in the article will help you formulate a fundraising letter for your unique needs.

How to Write a Fundraising Letter for Nonprofit Companies

There are eleven guidelines you can follow to ensure that you create an effective fundraising letter. Following are the guidelines we have listed below to enhance your chances of getting a positive response. First, however, you must understand these guidelines in context to your organization and its unique needs.

The 12 guidelines you need to follow for creating an effective fundraising letter are listed below:

  • Establish your goals
  • Identify your audience
  • Tell a story
  • Keep the focus on the donor
  • Keep it short but sensible
  • Ensure it is easily readable
  • Don’t use statistics
  • Convey urgency and create a compelling CTA
  • Never forget to say thanks and sign the letter
  • Rewrite and revise 
  • Avoid complications
  • Ensure convenience 

Establish Your Goals

As with any project, the first thing you need to do is determine or establish the goals you wish to achieve through fundraising. Next, take your sweet time to go through your organization’s mission and vision statements. Then, examine how well they align with your new organizational goal.

Ensure Goals Align With Your Organization’s Mission
When it comes to nonprofit organizations, all your activities must align with the mission of your organization. This alignment in your organization’s short-term and long-term goals is pivotal in establishing your commitment to the goal.

Consistency in your organization’s effort to overcome an issue is usually regarded as a good thing by your supporters. Furthermore, it will also help you gain the trust of prospects and make a convincing case for your fundraising letter.

Set a Measurable Goal
You need to make sure that the goal you set is measurable. The goal of your fundraising letter may vary from time to time. It may be for raising domination, or for signing up prospects for a sponsorship program, or something else altogether. But, whatever your goals are, you need to make sure that they are realistic and measurable.

For example, if you aim to raise money for a specific cause, you need to set a target amount to be raised. Similarly, if you are trying to get more sponsors for a cause, you need to set the number of sponsors you need.

Decide Quantity and Frequency of The Letters
You must decide on the number of fundraising letters you intend to send out before you begin the campaign. It would be best if you also determined the ideal frequency to send the mailers. Furthermore, you should also find the best time to send your fundraising letters to get the optimal result.

Identify Your Audience

Once you have established the goal of your fundraising letters, you can move on to find the right audience for it. Always make it a point to choose a target audience with the highest probability of responding to your mailer.

Segment Your Audience
An organization can send different types of fundraising letters based on its unique goals. For example, some are sent to raise donations, and some are sent to sign up volunteers or sponsors. Therefore, it makes no sense to have the same audience for all your letters.

You must identify and segment your target audience appropriately. Only after truly understanding your audience can you set the right tone of voice and message for your fundraising letter. By doing so, segmentation makes your campaign more successful and easier for you to manage.

Personalize Your Fundraising Letters
You must personalize your fundraising letters because the recipient has to feel involved in your cause. Without personalization, there is a good chance for your fundraising letter may wind up sounding bland and fail to make an emotional connection with the reader.

For example, how you communicate with a donor who makes regular contributions to your cause is different from a prospective donor. The personalization aspect of your letter can be simplified using a direct mail automation service such as PostGrid.

Tell a Story

Storytelling is a crucial factor when it comes to effective and consistent communication. Presenting your ideas in the form of a story can help the reader connect with the situation empathetically. Hence, taking a storytelling approach for your fundraising letters is an ideal way to generate a response.

Focus on a Person’s Specific Story
As humans, we tend to connect with the plight of others when they are given a face and an identity. For example, speaking of the risks of cancer in your fundraising letter may not generate an emotional response from the reader.

But, if we are talking about a specific patient and their struggles, it makes the reader empathize with that person. Additionally, you should also consider starting your fundraising letter based on this story. It could be a question, a statement, or something entirely your own.

Present a Solution to The Problem
The fundraising letter is ultimately aimed at helping people, and it is not enough that you just shed light on the plights faced by people. However, the main focus of the story is who and what needs the help of the prospect.

Once you have presented your story or issue to the prospects, you need to provide a solution. The solution you offer is where the real role of the prospective donor begins. At this point, the reader is informed that they can help the person, and you can introduce your organization and how it helps those people.

Keep The Focus on The Donor

The word “you” is of utmost importance when it comes to fundraising letters. Why? Because it enables you to keep your fundraising letter focused on the donor or addressee. It is easy to get lost in the storytelling method of writing, and repeatedly using the word “you” enables you to stay in the loop.

This type of donor or recipient-centric communication is the key to a successful fundraising campaign. Furthermore, the word “you” helps you sound more personal and make the recipients feel valued. As a result, you can also work towards bridging the gap between your organization and its supporters.

Addressing the recipient as “you” and thanking them for their previous contributions makes them feel more appreciated. You can follow good practice by replacing “I” with “you” whenever possible.

For example, use sentences like “Thanks to your contribution, we were able to save 500 trees last year.”

Finally, you should also try to avoid using your organization’s name anywhere on the fundraising letter. By minimizing the mention of your organization’s name in the letter, you effectively refocus on the recipient and their actions.

Keep It Short But Sensible

One unique aspect of fundraising letters is that they tend to be relatively longer than other mailers like postcards. Therefore, it is best if you try to keep your message short and to the point. However, you must be careful not to sound emotionless by striving to be concise in your fundraising message.

If you are someone new to fundraising letters, you should not worry about complex rules. Instead, it would be best if you let the content decide the letter’s length. Let your ideas flow into words until you have said what needed to be said.

Avoid Information Overload
It is easy to get lost in your story, which could lead to an information overload. So make sure that you don’t keep on adding extra information in your fundraising letter just to make it seem bigger. The goal should always be to convey the most information without dragging out the letter.

Avoid Foreign Phrases & Complex Sentences
Using foreign phrases and big words may seem good for aesthetics. But, they can hardly help to generate a response from the reader. Furthermore, you should also avoid abbreviations or acronyms to make the sentences easy to read and understand.

Ensure Easy Readability

There is no question that readability is a vital aspect of your fundraising letter. Consider the fundraising letters as an opportunity to introduce yourself to prospective donors. It lets your readers know about the work your organization does and how it makes a difference.

You must use simple language and a short message to convey your fundraising message. Ideally, you should have a cool design and highly readable content for your letters. But, if you need to sacrifice one for the other, you should always prioritize content over design.

Shorter Sentences And Paragraphs With Adequate White Space
Making it shorter is the easiest way to ensure that your letter is easily readable for your target audience. By saying shorter, we don’t mean the overall length of the letter but shorter words, sentences, and even paragraphs.

Finally, you must also ensure that your letter has adequate white space in it. Don’t be reluctant to dumb down things to the extent that even kids can easily understand what you say. Using plain English and simple language can help you in achieving this.

Highlight Keywords And Phrases
Whenever you are preparing a fundraising letter, you should consider that your prospect may be super busy. Hence you need to highlight all the crucial parts of your letter. You can do this by underlining keywords, making them bold, or highlighting them with different colors.

Don’t Use Statistics

Usually, all forms of content encourage the use of statistics in them. However, that is not quite the case when it comes to fundraising letters. A fundraising letter is aimed to appeal to the emotional side of people, and using numbers or statistics can hardly help you.

Especially when it comes to nonprofit fundraising, the use of statistics can easily end up sounding robotic. People may be easily impressed with numbers, but they rarely move them. Hence, it is best to just skip using statistics in your fundraising letters.

Present an Emotional And Relatable Story
An emotional story is significantly more effective in generating a response from the audience than statistics in a fundraising letter. Furthermore, the touching story you tell the audience must be relatable to them to some extent.

Convey Urgency And Create a Compelling CTA

Donors, much like customers, tend to respond better to urgency. But, the truth is that the vast majority of us tend to put off things or procrastinate till the last minute. It is true for pretty much everything in our lives, including donations.

Explain Why it is Urgent
Conveying urgency in your fundraising letter is not limited to saying “it’s urgent”. You must go on and explain why there is an urgent need for the reader to take action. Try explaining what is at stake by explaining the reader’s risk or consequence of the delayed action.

Create a Compelling CTA
A compelling CTA is what you need to reinforce the message that you convey to the reader. Use a clear and persuasive CTA that reiterates the core point of your message. The CTA must also clearly state what the reader would be offering should they choose to take action.

Never Forget to Say Thanks And Sign The Letter

When you are writing a fundraising letter, you must always say thank you to the donors. It doesn’t matter if the recipient just enquired about a sponsorship program or a regular donor to your organization. You must acknowledge their participation and thank them in your fundraising letter.

Don’t Sign The Letter Using The Organization’s Name
When signing the fundraising letter, one common mistake that people tend to make is using the organization’s name. Instead of using the organization’s name to sign the letters, you should opt for an employee or even a board member representing the organization.

This further enhances the personal touch of the fundraising letter. In addition to this, you can better personalize your letter by avoiding phrases such as “Dear Friend”. You should also ensure that you always address the donor by their first or last name.

Rewrite and Revise

Regardless of how impressed you are with the first draft of your letter, you must still get a second opinion about it. A fresh pair of eyes examining your fundraising letter can often see issues you may have missed.

You can either get this feedback from your team members or directly from some of the target audience. All you need to do for this is to send or show an early draft to the audience. It is best to take your time before checking the first draft for improvements to give yourself a fresh view of things.

This process can be repeated until you feel like you struck the right chord for the campaign. You can also make use of post scriptum or P.S. as it is one of the first things the reader notices in your letter.

Avoid complications

A mantra you can live by when it comes to fundraising letters is “keep it simple.” Why is this important? Because complicating your letter with too many inserts like a tease, letter, photos, etc., may overwhelm the reader.

Use Minimal Inserts
Always try to use a minimal amount of inserts in your fundraising letters. This part is vital because recipients tend to get distracted when too many inserts are in the package. They may even end up discarding the mailer as a whole if there are too many inserts.

Furthermore, the donor may feel like you are wasting money on needless inserts instead of contributing to the cause. An excellent method to ensure minimal inserts is to only include inserts that the reader is likely to hold the most value in.

Ensure Convenience

Regardless of what type of fundraising letter you are sending or what goals it wishes to achieve, they must all be convenient for the reader. You could spend hours or even weeks perfecting the fundraising letter only to lag when it comes to convenience.

For example, let’s consider a case where you have created the perfect fundraising letter asking for donations. Now, your letter is of top-tier quality that the reader is convinced to make a sizable donation. However, there is one problem, the contributions can only be made via checks.

The reader may have been ready to donate then and there using an online channel but can’t because you only accept checks. There is a good chance the reader puts off the payment for later or drops the donation altogether in such situations.

Use QR Codes
Navigating your audience from an offline medium like the fundraising letter to an online medium like a website is easy via QR codes. They are the most convenient way to access an online medium like a website, payment portal, or landing page.

You can decide where the QR code should lead the prospects. So, if you are trying to sign up new volunteers through the campaign, they can have them directed to a contact form. They can then provide the required details and register themselves on your website/landing page.

Effective Non-profit Fundraising Letters Examples

Crafting a compelling fundraising letter is not easy, even with all the guidelines we have provided above. It is one thing to list the guidelines for an idea fundraising letter and another to draft one.

Furthermore, there are different types of fundraising letters based on the goal it wishes to accomplish. So, below we discuss the fundraising letter example that organizations most commonly use. Analyzing the fundraising message example will help you better understand and create fundraising letters.

Type 1: General Fundraising Letter Asking For Donations

A general fundraising letter asking for donations is probably the most common type of fundraising letter you see. This type of fundraising letter is the simplest and most straightforward to ask for donations from individuals.

Generally, this type of fundraising letter is limited to a single page, but it never exceeds more than two pages. As you can see from the donation letter sample provided here, gives details of your organization’s needs.

The sample donation request letter for nonprofit organizations also needs to specify how the donor can help. Furthermore, the donor must be thanked if they have contributed to the organization and its cause in the past.

When to Use General Fundraising Letter Asking For Donations

There isn’t an ideal time to send out a general fundraising letter asking for donations, as you can do it any time of the year. However, it is also true that the fundraising letters tend to be more effective than other times during end-of-year fundraising.

The general fundraising letter is ideal for nonprofit organizations that want clothes to know about them and their work. Furthermore, you can use this type of letter for an annual fundraising campaign. It means that you send several letters to the same person but spaced out over months throughout the year.

Tips For Drafting a General Fundraising Letter Asking For Donations

If you go through several examples of how to ask for donations, there are certain common aspects that you will notice. Some of these aspects are listed below and ensuring that you include elements in your letter can significantly optimize your letter.

  • Use the preferred name of the donor
  • Focus the letter on the donor
  • Never forget to sign the letter
  • Highlight opportunities for the donors like corporate philanthropy programs
  • Provide alternative engagement opportunities such as volunteering

Type 2: Fundraising Letter Asking For Sponsorships

Fundraising letters asking for sponsorships are somewhat similar to general fundraising letters for donations. However, unlike letters asking for donations, the sponsorship letters usually mention some form of incentive to the donors.

Big events like galas that are conducted by nonprofits usually require sponsors. The reason is that nonprofits can’t afford all the costs associated with such large events. In the sample donation request letter for nonprofits, you can see that the donor is offered something in exchange for the donation.

The incentive that a donor receives by becoming a sponsor can be several things. However, one of the most common incentives when it comes to sponsorship programs is advertising space. This space could be in a t-shirt, a billboard, and so on. You can even include your or your organization’s name in the Partner list.

When to Use Fundraising Letter Asking For Sponsorships

Sponsorship events such as a gala or a marathon happen at a specific time. Hence, you need to send sponsorship letters accordingly. Ideally, you should send the fundraising letter at least a few months before the date fixed for the event.

The majority of the sponsorship letters are sent to corporate partners. However, it is not uncommon to send them to individuals who are close to the organization. Additionally, sponsorship letters tend to generate a better response from the current corporate partners, volunteers, or donors.

Tips For Drafting a Fundraising Letter Asking For Sponsorships
  • Specify the event details such as the date, venue, etc.
  • Offer incentives to the sponsors, such as advertising space
  • Clearly explain how they can become a sponsor
  • Clearly state an amount based on previous donations

Type 3: Fundraising Letter Asking For Volunteer Time

Sometimes, what a nonprofit organization needs from the donors is not money or materialistic donations but their time. Providing volunteering opportunities allows the donors to get more involved with your organization and the good work they do.

As you can see from the fundraising message example provided, you must clearly state what your organization is seeking. Furthermore, a volunteering opportunity allows the donor to have an option to serve a good cause.

When to Use Fundraising Letter Asking For Volunteer Time

The best time for sending fundraising letters asking for volunteer time is a few weeks or months before the event. Additionally, you should use other channels such as emails and phone calls along with direct mail.

The volunteering letters can be sent to both existing volunteers and donors. However, you should try to find out whether a prospect is likely to be interested in a volunteering program. Additionally, you must also account for the time required to decide the place and position for the volunteers.

Tips For Drafting a Fundraising Letter Asking For Volunteer Time
  • Always start with an exciting hook without beating around the bush
  • Ensure a portion in the letter for providing your contact information
  • Show our gratitude by thanking the recipient in advance
  • Send the letters from a leader in your organization

Type 4: Fundraising Letter Asking For Corporate Donations

In terms of numbers, individual donations may far exceed corporate donations. However, companies or businesses make up a significant portion of contributions. In addition, unlike individual contributions, which are often made voluntarily, corporate donations are usually made after you ask for them.

Hence, you could say that corporate fundraising letters are more important than general fundraising letters sent to individuals. Fundraising letters are perfect for corporate donations because you can’t just walk into a corporate company and ask for donations.

So, unless you know someone from the higher-ups in a corporate company, you need fundraising letters asking for corporate donations. Fundraising letters enable you to introduce yourself, your organization, and the good work that it does.

Take a look at the fundraising letter sample for understanding how to create a letter for corporate donations.

When to Use Fundraising Letter Asking For Corporate Donations

Corporate fundraising letters are generally used for requesting donations for special projects or initiatives. For example, events like a gala or a marathon require significant capital investment, usually met through corporate donations.

As briefly mentioned above, this type of fundraising is ideal for pitching a fundraising event to corporations that you have never worked with before. Furthermore, you can improve your chances of bagging a corporate donation by providing incentives.

One of the most desired incentives is providing them with advertising space for a specific event your organization is conducting.

Tips For Drafting a Fundraising Letter Asking For Corporate Donations
  • Specify a concern in society and explain how a company can help with it
  • Be extremely specific about the fundraising event to show legitimacy
  • Ensure that the corporate company has options to get in touch with you easily
  • Always mention any past contributions and make them feel appreciated

Type 5: Fundraising Letter Asking For Auction Items

Several nonprofits host auctions to raise money for their cause. The auction can be silent, live, or even online. Like the fundraising letter template provided here, you can auction any unique items your donors can bid on.

Items auctioned by nonprofits are not new because it is not productive to buy and then sell them. The best way to go about this is to obtain the auction items directly from companies or individuals as donations.

Therefore, the fundraising letter you send must explain what your nonprofit is looking for with utmost clarity. The donor should then be provided with the ability to fill out a sheet to list all the items they wish to donate. You can even lead them to an online forum where they can fill in the details.

When to Use Fundraising Letter Asking For Auction Items

The fundraising letters asking for auction items must be sent at least a couple of months before the auction day. This is especially important because the donor may need to retrieve an item, for example, an art piece. They may also need time to think about which items they can donate to your cause.

As you can see, the time gap between sending the fundraising letter and the auction event day must be closely examined. Furthermore, the letter can also serve as an invitation to the auctions, although it is best to send a reminder mail.

Tips For Drafting a Fundraising Letter Asking For Auction Items
  • Mention your successful fundraising auctions in the past
  • Be very specific and include details like the types of items for the auction
  • Include a form for the donor to specify all the items they are willing to donate
  • Never forget to invite the donor to the auction

Type 6: Fundraising Letter Asking For Donation Online

Today, most fundraising campaigns for nonprofits have moved online. This is evident from the widespread use of crowdfunding and other online donation methods. However, the largest nonprofits in the world prefer to use direct mail for sending fundraising letters.

However, they also use Q.R. codes and PURLs to navigate donors to an online medium. Once the donor is taken online, they can conveniently make donations or complete some other desired action. You can make use of advanced direct mail automation tools like PostGrid to easily accomplish this.

When to Use Fundraising Letter Asking For Donation Online

The ideal time to use online donation request letters is anytime, so long as you have an active campaign. This means you need to have a web page set up for making donations on your website or landing page.

However, it would be best to send the fundraising letter to the prospective donors at the beginning of the campaign. This is done to ensure that the message reaches the donors in time to donate.

Tips For Drafting a Fundraising Letter Asking For Donation Online
  • Ask your supporters to share the campaign and enhance the reach
  • Include a personal narrative that can better resonate with the readers
  • Make sure to mention the end date for the fundraising campaign
  • Connect the direct mail to your fundraising page via URL or Q.R. code

Type 7: Fundraising Letter For Event Invitation

Fundraising event invitations are an excellent way to bring together potential donors, and they are not merely event invites. Every time a prospective donor receives an invitation and buys a ticket to the event or sponsors a table, a donation is made.

Although such payments are not traditionally considered donations, they are not so different. As you can guess, such fundraising letters also need to be specific. The letter must clearly state the date, the location, and the start time of the event, along with a brief description of your cause.

When to Use Fundraising Letter For Event Invitation

When it comes to event invitations, the sooner you send them out, the better it is for you. This way, you can ensure that the recipients have enough time to deliberate and respond to your invitation.

Sending out the invitations at least four weeks before the event is a good practice you can adopt. However, for the best result, you should send it approximately three months ahead of the event.

Tips For Drafting a Fundraising Letter Event Invitation
  • Focus the content on the cause rather than the event itself
  • Set an “RSVP by” date for the event to get the headcount
  • Make sure you ask the recipient if they need any help or additional information
  • Include all the necessary details of the event, including ticket price, date, place, etc.

Conclusion

After discussing fundraising letters in detail, including several fundraising letter templates, one thing is obvious. So many things have to come together in the right way to run a successful fundraising campaign.

There are several guidelines that you can follow to ensure the best result for your fundraising letters. In addition, the numerous sample solicitation letter for donations we have listed in the article can also help you achieve your goals.

However, it would be best to consider using an advanced direct mail automation system like PostGrid to optimize your process. Advanced tools like PostGrid automate the direct mail process entirely, personalization, printing, and mailing of letters.

Furthermore, you can use PostGrid’s address verification API to ensure that your fundraising mail is delivered without fail. So, it is evident that you need to use effective fundraising letter examples and advanced tools like PostGrid to get the best possible result.

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