Fundraising Letters: Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Ask Anyone For A Donation
You can't write an effective fundraising letter unless you know where to start. The most important part of any direct-mail fundraising appeal is what you do before you write a word of the package.
Poorly conceived appeals lead to poor results. Letters written in haste usually waste money and hinder donations.
The secret to attracting new donors, renewing support, raising funds, building relationships, and retaining loyal donors with direct mail is to ask yourself the tough questions before you ask anyone for a donation. You need to know who you are writing to, why you are writing them, and what you want them to do.
Here are some tips for increasing your chances of success. We answer the vital questions that leading fundraisers ask before writing a single line of copy.
1. Who Are You Writing To?
Most of your donors share a common trait. What is it? Are they all touched by heart disease in some way? Are they all veterans? Are they all former students of your university? Are they all theater-goers?
Understanding your audience is the first step, because who you mail to is the single most important determinant of your success. You can craft the most moving appeal letter of the decade, but your campaign will flop if you mail it to the wrong people.
Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself to get a better understanding of your donors and how to appeal to them in a relevant way that motivates them to give.
2. Why Are You Writing?
That sounds like a dumb question, right? You are writing because you need money! That's a given. But as someone has so well said, donors do not give to you because you have a need. They give to you because you meet a need.This means you need to take your attention away from your financial need and turn it to your cause. What crisis, opportunity, current event, issue, or need is causing you to appeal for funds today? Focus on that and not on your need for funds. Here are some other questions to ask at this stage:
3. What Do You Want Your Readers To Do?
We want them to mail a gift, the larger the better! Not so fast. Are you writing to business peers, inviting them to join your organization as members? Or are you mailing to existing donors, asking them to renew their support by mailing you a gift? Or are you writing to major donors, inviting them to join your giving club (President's Circle, for example)?
In each of these cases, the action you want your reader to take will be different. So make sure you know what action your readers must take before you start writing. Consider these other questions:
Some of these questions are easier to answer than others, depending on where you are in your annual giving program, the age of your organization, and the nature of your mission. But asking them (along with the many other questions you must ask yourself before committing money to a mailing) should reduce your mailing costs, eliminate waste, and increase your response rates and levels of giving.
Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer. Contact him at [email protected] with any questions.
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