Five Fundraising Letter Tips

When writing a fundraising letter, there are five things you should do to get more donations. These 5 tips for writing fundraising letters are all about communicating directly with your reader in an engaging manner that captures their interest.

A donation appeal letter should personalize your cause by telling a story about a real person, not a general problem. Why? Because people give money to help people. Give them a person to identify with as the “face” of the problem and explain what their life is like now.

Talk to them directly in a conversational tone the way a best-selling author does their storytelling. Then, show them exactly how their donation will change the life of someone just like the person in that story.

Master copywriter and direct mail fundraising expert Alan Sharpe describes how the pros write their donation letters in the guest article below.

Top Five Ingredients of a Successful Fundraising Letter

Direct mail fundraising gets harder every year. Postage rates are increasing. Attention spans are decreasing. And discretionary income, which is to say, the money your donors use to support their favorite causes, is tighter. So, if you want to succeed at raising funds with direct mail letters, follow these five timeless tips.

1. Write About a Person, Not a Problem

Take your case for support and translate it into flesh and bone. Give it a name. People give to people to help people. Your donors don’t want to change the world. They want to change lives. Show them how to change lives by featuring one person in each fundraising letter. Tell your story through one person.

2. Tell a Story

The quickest way to grab (and keep) your donor’s attention is to tell a story. Follow the method novel writers employ: conflict> development> resolution. Start with conflict. Develop the conflict. Resolve the conflict.

3. Write as a Person, Not an Institution

At the bottom of your letter is a signature of a person, not an institution. That’s because fundraising letters are written by individuals, not by committees. Write your appeal letters so that they sound as though they are coming from a person. Don’t write “we, us, our.” Write in the first person. Just as I am doing right now.

4. Write to an Individual

Don’t write to donors, plural. Don’t speak in general terms about “our supporters” or “our alumni.” Treat your letter as a piece of warm correspondence between one person and another, not between an institution and a group of donors. Always address your donor as an individual. Which means using the word “you.” A lot.

5. Show what a Donation Buys

Make your case for support concrete, not abstract. Tell your donor, as specifically as possible, what you will do with his or her donation. Don’t write, “support our Thanksgiving Drive” when you can instead write, “buy a Thanksgiving dinner for a family of four with your donation of $23.”

Treat these appeal letter tips as a checklist for the coming year. With every letter you write, run it against this list to make sure you are following the top five ingredients of a successful fundraising letter.

About The Author
Alan Sharpe, CFRE, is a fundraising practitioner, author, trainer and speaker. Through his weekly newsletter, books, handbooks and workshops, Alan helps not-for-profit organizations worldwide to acquire more donors, raise more funds and build stronger relationships. Sign up for “Sharpe Tips,” Alan’s free, weekly, email newsletter, at

More Fundraising Letter Tips

Make Your Donation Letter A Quick Read – A great donation letter is one that can be read quickly, one that’s easily skimmed for highlights and packs a powerful call to action. Let’s face facts here. Hardly anyone is going to read every word of your fundraising letter. In fact, you’re doing great just getting them to open it.

How To Write Fundraising Letters – Writing fundraising letters is a task many people find daunting. Here’s an overview of how to write fundraising letters, including a sample letter to get you started. With these tips and a sample letter to work from, you’ll find it goes much easier.

Give Donors What They Want – The secret to getting donations for your non-profit is to give donors what they want. People give to causes to make a difference in others lives. And what donors really want to know is how their donation will help people.

How to Write a Fundraising Letter – The key to many a successful fundraising campaign is writing a good letter. This may sound intimidating at first, but fundraising letters contain many of the same elements as any good sales letter.