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write a fundraising letter

How to Write a Successful Fundraising Letter


Are you involved with a charity or special cause that needs money? Are you willing to put pen to paper and write a letter that will generate those funds?
If so, there are a couple of details you need to keep in mind.

You have to give if you want to get

No one gives away money without getting something in return.
With the exception of small premiums like address stickers, donors don’t get anything they can hold in their hands to show where their money went. But they do get something back or they wouldn’t donate.
What they get is emotional, and sometimes it’s something they can’t even name. A host of emotions come into play when a person writes a check to a charity. They include guilt, pride, fear, love, and gratitude – to name just a few. As a writer, it’s your job to tap into those emotions and give your donors the satisfaction they crave.

Here are just a few of the reasons someone might choose to support your particular cause:
* To be recognized for their generosity
* To feel important
* To be associated with someone important
* To get back at the corrupt or unjust
* To support or oppose a political viewpoint
* To validate their own moral or ethical values
* To fulfill a sense of duty
* To share their love (for animals, children, nature, the elderly, etc.)
* To ease their guilt over a past transgression - or over being successful.

Most people will mention the tax benefits, and yes, giving to a registered non-profit does carry benefits. But remember there are plenty of causes to choose from. They won't choose YOUR particular cause for that reason.

Let your donors feel like they’re part of the solution

Everyone has their own reason, but I believe that one of the strongest reasons why people give is to feel as if they're a vital part of the good work being done. They may not have the time to do hands-on help, but by offering financial aid they participate. Thus the message for you is a writer is to make sure that you let your donors know that they make the work possible. And if there's any way for you to show them the positive results of that work, DO IT!

Show your good results

Letters about doom and gloom make people feel depressed. Avoid them. Instead write letters showing that there was a bad situation, but because of their kind support, you were able to bring about a happy ending. Paint a verbal picture so that your donors can “see” what you’ve done and what you will do in the future. Then remind them that many more happy endings are needed and that their continued support will ensure that they happen. (And it doesn't matter if they've supported you before...write as if they have.) Take the time to dig out a success story and show that their dollars make a difference. Don't just say you need support... show them what you will DO with their support. Be specific, even if you only touch on a small segment of your work. The next thing I'll tell you may be difficult for you... but do it anyway.

ASK for the money.

Did you know that some people give only because they were asked? Psychology is a strange thing. You would think that if you wrote a long letter about your work and how much money it takes to carry on, people would know that they need to help. Not so… if you don’t ask, most won’t give.

So, swallow your pride and your reluctance to “beg.” Remember that the money isn’t for you… it’s for the good work that you’re doing. I know how difficult this is, because when it comes to asking in person I am the world’s worst fund raiser. I always feel like I’m asking for myself, because I only work for causes I support wholeheartedly. That’s why I restrict my asking to the written word.

Don’t beat around the bush or hint that you need their help. Come right out and say "Please send your donation of $25 (or $5 - or $100) today so that we can continue to ...." Don’t let people off the hook by failing to ask.

People even need you to suggest giving amounts. You should include a reply device with a "giving string" showing a small number up to a larger number. (The numbers will depend upon your audience and your cause.) Let them know that even a small donation matters, but they need to send something.

If you have a special need at the moment, say so. Say "Please send your donation today so that we can **** by ****." Create a bit of urgency by letting them know that the money is desperately needed by a certain date in order to meet a specific need.

Lastly, include a return envelope. You don't need to add postage... in fact you shouldn't... but do include the envelope and a reply device (a device that re-states their reason for giving.) People are busy... if you don't make it easy to respond they'll lay your letter aside for later and probably never get back to it.

Remember... Americans are a generous lot. They love to give... they feel good when they give... and it's your job to help them feel good by supporting your favorite cause. Go for it! And if you get frustrated and want help, call or write.

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