Avoid These Mistakes When Writing Your Fundraising Letters

We encourage our clients to regularly assess their donor communications.

There are three categories of letters that nonprofits should utilize:

  1. Appeal,
  2. Acknowledgement, and
  3. Stewardship.

These letters are fundamental aspects of your fundraising practice and are the means by which your organization communicates its mission and impact.

Each letter falls under one of three primary fundraising strategies:

Ask (appeal and solicitation)

  • Direct appeal that says please give $X. Do not rely on passive asks and do not wait until December.

Thank (acknowledgment and recognition)

  • Most often cited as the reason why donors gave again and/or gave more. It must be meaningful and should not include another ask.

Engage (stewardship and cultivation)

  • Build a relationship before asking and share the impact of the gift before asking again.

When writing your letters, our first level of advice is don’t let efficiency trump strategy.

What does that mean?

  • Don’t send a “Dear Friend” appeal letter to save the time it takes to do a mail merge.
  • Don’t send thank you letters only once a month to make the task more manageable.
  • Don’t skip sending a stewardship letter because you think it’s not worth doing.
  • Don’t forget that fundraising is inherently relational — not transactional. If you treat your communications simply as tasks to do and the messaging feels formulaic and perfunctory, then you miss the chance to make a meaningful connection that deepens relationships with your donors.

Our second level of advice is a case for support should never be about a need for money. Never ever. Not even during a pandemic.

Donors want to know the impact of their gift — how your mission impacts the people and places that your organization serves — not that you need money. When the message is all about the money, then your donors can feel like an ATM rather than a partner in your work.

Create a cross-functional team in your organization to review all your letters from last year. Then begin the work of creating new narratives that are clear, compelling, and connected.

To help you assess your current letters, we are providing a Letter Scoring Rubric to support you. In addition to your own review, be sure to invite a colleague – someone in development or from a different department – and someone not affiliated with your organization to grade your letters.

Are you making the emotional connection you intend and is the message clearly conveyed? Let us know if the rubric helps you improve your letter writing.

Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO

2022-02-03T18:21:54+00:00February 3rd, 2022|