Writing a powerful fundraising appeal letter is both more difficult and easier than you think. I know you have probably read lots of suggestions on how to craft a fundraising letter that will produce results for your organization. The prescriptive advice is usually on-target but because it is abstract it does not make for a tangible tool you can use.
In addition to directions on what to say in a fundraising appeal letter, I think it is helpful to examine a really outstanding letter and become attuned to how, on a first read, you powerfully connect with its message. I just received such a letter from a board member of Keshet, a Boston-based grassroots organization dedicated to creating a fully inclusive Jewish community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Jews in Greater Boston and across the country.
I encourage you to read it and be aware of your reaction to it. Then, reread it with these lessons in mind. (click on the image for a larger version).
Lessons from a Good Fundraising Letter
- A strong, provocative subject line (for emailed letters) motivates the recipient to open the letter. (since you cannot see the subject line that was part of the emailed version of this letter, it said: “At 17, I learned about homophobia at Jewish summer camp”)
- Personalization matters – both of the person addressed and from the author of the letter. This letter does both. While I know this is a mass appeal letter, I like being named and I like reading a letter from a real person speaking to me.
- The opening paragraphs are strong. They kept me engaged. I wanted to read the entire letter!
- There is a picture of the author. I can get a sense of who he is. Having a picture makes him and his story more real and builds a sense of empathy.
- Bolding of key phrases helps the reader navigate the letter and retain the most important story elements
- The author presents a clear explanation of the organization he supports and why it should matter to the recipient.
- There is a clear, logical call to action – a call for support of a specific program that is responsive to the situation described in the early paragraphs of the letter.
- The P.S. is a good tag. It offers some more information that tells the recipient about some of the success the organization has achieved. That builds confidence.
- More photos. A nice touch to bring you closer to the organization.
Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.