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5 tips to write appeal letters that don’t suck

Donors are the lifeblood of any non-profit organization, so you best make sure you’re reaching them effectively. These 5 tips will help you refine your message and bring in more money:

Cut the jargon

Most of us use jargon all the time without being aware we’re doing so. It’s the language we speak at work and with our peers, and that’s OK. But when it comes to using it in your fundraising appeals, it’s a recipe for turning people away. Why? It can sound cold or clinical at times.

For example, do you think your supporters know what a “direct service professional” is or even care? They just want to know how they can help so they can be the hero. It’s helpful to have someone outside the organization review the letter because sometimes we aren’t aware of our own propensity to use jargon.

Personalize it

Your appeal letter is supposed to speak to one individual, so using “you” and “I” adds some intimacy. Don’t forget to use the donor’s name in the salutation. (This is easy with merge fields in Word, or with Donor Wrangler’s letter generating system.) Stay away from “Dear Friend,” or “Dear Community Partner,” especially if the recipient has given in the past.

Tell a story

People are often prompted to act based on emotions and turn to logic to justify it. One of the best ways to appeal to emotion (and inspire generosity) is to use stories that show the impact the organization is making, thanks to its donors. (That’s them!)

The end goal is to connect donors with your mission and outcomes in a meaningful way. Use facts and statistics to add credibility.

Be specific

As the purpose of most fundraising appeals is to ask for money, make that ask apparent. Don’t ask for “support” or bury the ask. Instead, you should lead with it. Ask for a specific amount based on the donor’s giving history or relationship with the organization.

Effective fundraising letter writing is equal parts art and science. Don’t get discouraged if yours doesn’t roll off your tongue right away. It’s a skill that is developed over time.

Make it scannable

In today’s noisy world, you are competing for time with everything from Netflix to time with friends and family. That’s why it’s extra important to make your fundraising appeal skimmable. Use techniques like bolding, italicizing, and even underlining key words or phrases to help people digest your message.

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