How to Write A Fundraising Letter

Here are four fundraising letter tips to keep in mind when writing your next appeal letter. You need to address your recipient properly, grab their attention right away, convey the need facing real people, and ask for their help by painting a mental picture of what the future holds for those in need.

Fundraising letter expert Alan Sharpe offers these four succinct tips based on his decades of crafting donation request letters for some of the biggest non-profit organizations in the world, including Doctors Without Borders and Habitat For Humanity. Read on and notice how vividly Alan gets his message across.

How to Write a Direct Mail Fundraising Letter (Four Tips)

1. Address your reader as a friend, not as “Friend.”
When was the last time you received a letter from someone dear to you, addressing you as “Dear Friend?” Never, right? The days of the Dear Friend letter are dead.

I heard recently of a chairman of the board of a national charity who has given his charity millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of his time, yet he still receives fundraising appeals from this charity addressing him as “Dear Friend.” Ouch.

2. Arrest attention with an opening that resonates with your donors.

Assume your reader is standing over a trash can with a stack of today’s mail, reading the opening sentence of each letter before deciding its fate. You have only a few seconds to grab the reader’s interest. So make it a zinger.

Here are two openings for the same non-profit. Which one grabs your attention and makes you want to read on?

Opening 1: “I am writing to you to ask if you would like to support a low-income housing building project in your neighborhood.”

Opening 2: “If I invited you to walk over to your neighbor’s house with a bundle of roof shingles under your arm as a gift, what would you do?”

3. Put flesh and bones on your need.
One truth in fundraising is that people give to people to help people. So always describe your need in terms of people, not programs, not ministry, not money.

INSTEAD OF SAYING . . . We operate three vans.

SAY . . . The three vans that we use for emergency medical relief play a vital role in saving lives throughout the year.

INSTEAD OF SAYING .. . Essential medicines in many countries are not affordable.

SAY . .. Phillip Mbago is dying from a treatable disease for no other reason than this—he can’t afford his cure.

4. Ask for funds by painting a picture.
Don’t just ask for a donation. Show your readers how their donations will make a difference.

Instead of saying, “Send a gift today,” say, “Your gift to Habitat for Humanity today means that another family will soon move into a simple, decent, affordable home—thanks to you.”

Read more copy writing and appeal  letter tips from Alan Sharpe at

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Eight Advantages of Fundraising Letters – A well-crafted fundraising letter gives you the equivalent of a one-to-one meeting with thousands of potential supporters for the cost of a postage stamp.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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