Focus on building a trusting and long-term relationship with your donor. Be informative and respectful and always show appreciation for their contributions regardless if they are a first time donor or someone who has reliably donated to many campaigns over a long period of time.
Use a very conversational or casual tone as if you were writing an informal letter to a friend or casual acquaintance. To emphasize this tone and build a closer and deeper bond with your donor it is important you use pronouns like “I” and “you” and always be polite and appreciative.
Stress benefits, not needs
There are two types of benefits, tangible and intangible. Donors may respond to either but be sure to give them at least one. Some respond to a free gift (tangible) while others may be satisfied knowing they’ve helped save or improve the life of someone less fortunate (intangible).
Donors are generally more motivated by emotional appeals where they feel a connection to the project rather than just giving money that goes into a “general fund” to pay for some unknown future expenditure or to pay past expenses.
If your campaign provides both tangible and intangible benefits you should obtain a much greater level of participation and realize an increase in the average size of the donation.
Be specific, be direct and ask for a financial commitment
After explaining the program, your call to action could be for a specific amount of money, say $100 or it could be for a pledge to make a monthly donation over a specific period of time.
Make sure your request is clear. Repeat it several times in the letter and don’t be vague or timid.
Create a complete package for the prospect
Your letter will always be the focal point of the package but it is only one piece of a multi-piece package where all the pieces must work together synergistically.
The package should contain an outer envelope, your letter, a reply card and a reply envelope. Use a unifying theme, color scheme, and compatible fonts in order to make your package stand out and be memorable.
Write short, simple and if possible, clever sentences
Make an emotional connection to the prospect. Make them “feel.” Don’t force them to “analyze.” Never try to impress donors by using foreign expressions or make them feel uncomfortable by using words they have to look up in the dictionary.
Avoid the use of most abbreviations and acronyms as these can be confusing. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to emphasize key words and phrases.
Be sure to get to the key elements of your message early in the letter. Do not make it difficult for the prospect to understand your offer or to respond to it.
Pay careful attention to the layout
Make your letter fast and easy to read. One way of doing this is to use a lot of white space. Some key rules to follow include:
- Indent paragraphs
- Use short paragraphs
- Use bullet points
- Use subheads
- Underline key words and phrases
Create a sense of urgency
Provide donors with one or more reasons why it’s important to respond now. If not, they may not respond at all.
Be sure to repeat the need for urgency in the body of the letter and on other elements used in the reply process.
Don’t be concerned with the still unresolved argument as to whether short or long copy is more effective
Some people need to read a lot of information before making a decision while others may just need one simple reason before writing you a check.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to appeal to both types within the same document. If you use subheads on your paragraphs and make them stand out by using boldface type, underlines or a different color from the body text, your letter will be both long and easy to scan so those people who like short letters will find the information they seek quickly.
Again, I stress the importance of using your letter as another opportunity to build a long-term relationship with your donor about what your organization does and why you appreciate their help, support, and generosity.