Four Goals of Every Renewal Fundraising Letter

A renewal fundraising letter is an important part of your annual fundraising efforts because you want to convince people on your active donor list to keep supporting your organization. If you don’t send renewal letters at all. or you send ones that are ineffective, you risk losing some of your best supporters.

So, what are some of the main points you should make with your renewal letter? In this guest article, master fundraising copywriter Alan Sharpe explains what the 4 goals of every renewal fundraising letter should be and explains why you should aim to re-invigorate your donors each year.

In the fundraising profession, appeal letters that you mail to existing donors are called renewal letters. They are designed to solicit a gift, but, more important than that, they aim to persuade your current donors to renew their support of your organization.

Donors renew their support with their cash, of course, but they also renew it with their commitment—with their hearts and minds. And that’s why renewal letters are so vital. They help you maintain your broad base of support year after year, cost-effectively.

Renewal letters are part of a year-long program that is usually called the Annual Giving Program.

“Annual” does not mean that you mail just one letter a year (you shouldn’t). It simply means that you look at your fundraising efforts as a year-by-year activity, one where you must persuade your active donors to renew their commitment each year.

Goal #1: Renew donor commitment
The primary goal of your annual appeal letters, then, is donor renewal. Some donors give only once a year. Others give regularly. And others send a few gifts during the year, but sporadically.

You cannot expect that any of these donors will stay with your organization until death, theirs or yours. “Donor renewal is not automatic,” says James Greenfield, in his book, Fund Raising: Evaluating and Managing the Fund Development Process.

This means that each letter you mail should aim to re-motivate, re-invigorate and rejuvenate your donors, encouraging them, explicitly or implicitly, to renew their commitment to your organization, or, more accurately, to the people that your organization serves.

This is often done with the first appeal letter of the year, but donor renewal is really a year-long activity that takes place with every contact you have with each donor, whether it’s a phone call, a personal visit or their presence at a banquet or other event.

Goal #2: Renewed gift
Naturally, your goal with every renewal fundraising letter is also to raise funds. So you must ask for a gift in each renewal letter you mail. Wherever possible, make a mention of the last gift that your donor sent, and thank them again for their support.

And remember, the most effective renewal letters are those that ask for funds for a specific need, usually a project.

Goal #3: Upgraded gift
This goal is optional. In some of your letters during the year (usually at year-end), you have the option of asking your donors to renew their support at a higher level. This usually means asking donors to increase the size of each gift. For example, as Christmas approaches, you can mail your donors a letter that says, “I am inviting you to renew your commitment by 10 percent this year, to help us keep pace with inflation, and to meet our ambitious goals for the coming 12 months.”

Goal #4: Conversion to monthly giving
Does your non-profit organization have a monthly giving program? If you do, then you know how gratifying it is to have donors who send you a gift each month automatically from their bank account or credit card. Annual renewal letters are a perfect way for you to convert your annual givers to monthly givers.

There are a few ways to do this:
1. Send a letter whose primary goal is to persuade annual givers to join your monthly giving program. Spell out the benefits that the donor and your organization enjoy from monthly giving.
2. Use your postscript (your PS at the bottom of each letter) to invite annual givers to join your monthly giving program.
3. Include a buckslip or liftnote in your letters, describing your monthly giving program and inviting donors to sign up.

Asking recent donors to send you another gift is a lot easier and less expensive than acquiring a new donor.

That’s why renewal letters play such a vital role in helping your non-profit raise funds affordably. Most donors who respond by mail do not send with their first gift enough money to recover your costs of acquisition. That’s why their second gift and subsequent gifts are so crucial. My hope is that your fundraising letters will persuade your donors to stay with you for a long, long time.

Read more fundraising letter tips from Alan Sharpe at

More Appeal Letter Tips

Write Fundraising Letters About People, Not Projects – Here’s why you should write your fundraising letter about people and not about projects: Because people care about other people and want to hear how their donations will improve the lives of others. They don’t want to hear details about how you do it, they want to see the positive results from their giving.

Fundraising Letter Envelopes: How To Make Them Irresistible – The best way to increase the response rate of your fundraising letters is by making your envelopes simply irresistible so that they get opened and read.

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.

Successful Fundraising Letters Share Eight Qualities – If you want your next fundraising letter to be successful and effective, there are certain nuances you must master to achieve the right results.

Don’t Start Your Fundraising Letters As A Stranger – One of the things you should never do with your appeal letters is address them to “Dear Friend” because it can cost you literally thousands of dollars in lost donations.

Write Fundraising Letters That Donors Can’t Resist – Master copywriter Alan Sharpe offers practical advice to non-profit groups for boosting the results of your appeal letters.

Where To Find Creative Ideas For Your Appeal Letters – Creativity is key for keeping your fundraising letters fresh and bringing in sufficient donations. So, where do you find creative ideas for your appeals? The answer, surprisingly, is right under your nose.