“How wonderful it is to be able to write someone a letter! To feel like conveying your thoughts to a person, to sit at your desk and pick up a pen, to put your thoughts into words like this is truly marvelous.”
When I began writing this piece, I asked myself what I thought a fundraising letter really was. At first it seemed nothing more to me than the beginning of a monetary transaction for the sake of funding an organization. On the surface, that may be what a fundraising letter is. But upon closer inspection, what I believe a fundraising letter is the beginning of a connection.
Fundraising letter templates
The connection is an indirect one, like many connections made through fundraising software or other non in-person interactions. You don’t know the person behind the letter, but if the connection is made, it is at a deeper level. You understand the necessity of your contribution and the people it would benefit. It’s an understanding between the writer and the giver.
This is an important connection to make when writing effective fundraising letters. And when you’re done reading them, check out the four free fundraising letter templates at the end of the piece!
What makes an effective fundraising letter?
Be personal with your readers. When you meet someone for the first time, do you start by pitching them your ideas and asking for the money in their wallets? Of course not. You start by exchanging names.
Your letters must always have a name.
No one likes to think of themselves as “Donor #3245.”
Beginning your letter with a general title such as “Dear supporter” or “Generous donor” is treating your readers as such. Every fundraising letter should be personalized with your reader’s name.
2. Attention-grabbing lines
Chances are your reader isn’t going to spend five minutes reading your entire letter.
Like most people, they will skim your letter to find the important information, such as facts and emotional appeals. The most important information should bolded, italicized, and underlined.
3. Specific donation amounts
You never want to leave your reader guessing what your organization really needs from them.
When you specify exactly how much money your nonprofit is asking for it emphasizes just how just how important their individual contribution is to the cause. Be sure to include the success you’ve had with theirs or other donations in the past.
Explaining tangible results makes for a better selling point than a general appeal for money.
4. Explain how your success will impact the reader
Emotional appeals work best when they are directed at the reader, especially if your cause will have a direct or indirect impact on their daily lives. If no impact can be connected to the reader, then it is best to put your reader in the shoes of those it will directly benefit.
This is where storytelling works best, which brings me to my next point.
5. Have a compelling story
A story introduces a human element to your request.
The good guy always wins. While this is not always true, it is a cliche of storytelling because it’s what most of us want. We want the virtuous to succeed. Well in your story, your organization is the model of virtue and needs the help of others to prevail in the end. This is why those television commercials telling the story of those who suffer and the actions of others that eased that suffering are so effective.
6. Break it down into chewable pieces
If I didn’t use car metaphors to explain how a computer works, most of my family would have no clue what I was talking about when they ask me to fix their devices. Otherwise I would receive nothing but blank stares while I try to explain what RAM is why it doesn’t actually make their computers faster.
If you know nothing about computers, you probably just asked yourself, “what is RAM?”
Just as your readers are not likely to read your entire letter, they are also not going to search out a dictionary to figure out what your insider terms mean either. If you must explain complex topics, seek out metaphors that give your reader a working understanding of what you must explain.
7. Separate those pieces
You aren’t writing a master’s thesis. Nobody sifting through their mail wants to take a seat and read large paragraphs of text. Your fundraising letters should be broken up into one or two sentence paragraphs at most. This makes letters easily skimmable and accessible to those with little time on their hands.
Otherwise your letter will end up in the trash along with your master’s thesis if you decide to send that along as well.
Fundraising Letter Template Resources
Now that you know what makes an effective fundraising letter, it’s time to take what you know and find a template that works best for you. Those tips provide you with the secrets to grabbing their attention and these templates provide the structure to building a visually appealing and professional fundraising letter.
Each template follows the tips provided above.
- Standard Donation Request Template
- Individual Sponsorship Request Template
- Volunteer Time Request Template
- Corporate Donation Request Template
- Basic Donation Letter Template
- Creative Donation Letter Template
- Auction Item Donation Letter Template
- Church Donation Letter Template
- School Fundraising Letter Template
- Volunteer Time Donation Request Template
- Email Donation Request Template
Vertex 42 provides a Microsoft Word general donation template meant for charities, churches and sponsorships as well as multiple sample examples of donation request letters.
All templates downloadable in Word or PDF format.
- Basic Donation Letter
- Thank You Letter
- School Donation Letter
- Church Donation Letter
- Sports Team Donation Letter
Looking for more than just donations?
There is more to fundraising than standard fundraising emails and letters. Some projects require more money upfront than a steady trickle of smaller donations. In this case, you should try your hand at grant writing.
Grant writing is similar in many ways to your standard donation requests, but they require much more detail.
Want to learn how to improve your grant writing? Be sure to read my guide, “The 5 Ways to Improve Your Grant Writing.” This guide will give you the know how, as well as the resources you will need to make a connection with grantmakers all over.
Are there any other unique fundraising letter resources I missed? Be sure to let me know in the comments below!