Donation Request Letter Tips

Donation request letter tips from fundraising copywriter Alan Sharpe. Do your donation request letters lack a protagonist? The most compelling appeal letters feature a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, that captures the donor’s attention and makes the appeal human, moving and profitable.

Using A Protagonist Boosts Results

The most memorable novels, movies and television shows feature strong protagonists. The protagonist in a drama or story is the leading actor, the principal character. Some examples:

The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins.
Moby Dick: Ishmael.
Great Expectations: Pip.
War and Peace: Pierre Bezukhov.
Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield.

Out of Africa: Karen Blixen.
The Ten Commandments: Moses.
Star Wars: Luke Skywalker.
Gone with the Wind: Scarlett O’Hara.
My Fair Lady: Eliza Doolittle.

If you’re a hospital, your protagonist can be a heroic cancer patient.

If you’re a relief and development agency, your protagonist can be an aid worker serving AIDS orphans in Nigeria.

If you’re an environmental advocacy organization, your protagonist can be an activist chained to the railing outside the Indonesian Embassy in Ottawa.

If you’re an opera house, your protagonist can be your youngest, most promising singer.

A strong protagonist brings your fundraising letters alive because donors are people who give to people to help people. They don’t want to read about programs and policies. They want to read about people–the people you help, and your people who do the helping.

Donation request letter tips

A protagonist helps you tell your institutional story in human terms, to translate your case for support into flesh and blood.

Here is an example, taken from a thank-you letter mailed by a hospital to donors who had recently joined the hospital’s monthly giving program:

Dear Mr. Sharpe,

I shook hands with our country’s youngest heart transplant patient the other day, and he asked me to thank you. You are now a vital member of the team that’s keeping Brad alive.

Brad Phillips was only a few weeks old when the surgeons here at the Bendix Memorial Hospital gave him a new heart, saving his life. That was back in 1985. Since then, Brad has been rushed to hospital by air ambulance, caught pneumonia too many times to remember, received a second heart transplant, been diagnosed with cytomegalovirus disease, suffered kidney failure, and fallen in love with the hospital staff.

“I actually spend more time with them than I do with the family that brought me up,” says Brad. “I’m sure glad we get along so well!”
Your donors will quickly understand and embrace your cause when you show, in dramatic ways, who you are and who you serve, rather than describe what you do by naming your programs or listing your services.

And the most vivid way to do that in a fundraising letter is to single out one person whom you help, or one person on your staff (or a volunteer), and to tell your story through that protagonist, showing them in action.

About the Author

Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer, instructor, coach, author and newsletter publisher who helps non-profit organizations to raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using cost-effective, compelling, creative fundraising letters. Sign up for free donation request letter tips like this at

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How to Write Fundraising Letters That Motivate Donors – Motivating strangers to give their money away is one of the hardest jobs around. It’s difficult to do face to face. And it’s even harder to do by mail.

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