I am in the middle of writing a direct mail fundraising letter for a non-profit client, and tomorrow I will be presenting the letter to them, and explaining why it will be effective. And it got me thinking… there are really only three things that separate super-successful fundraising letters from ones that are just mediocre.
So I am taking a break from writing the letter to share those three things with you. We’ll keep it short and sweet. The three things are:
#1 – Letters that Focus on the Donor Raise More
Donor communications guru Tom Ahern has a great rule of thumb for fundraising letters. He says that your letter should say the word “you” (and variations like your, you’ll and yourself) twice as many times as it says “we” (and variations like our and us).
He’s right. Donors don’t respond to letters that talk primarily about the organization. They (like everyone) would prefer to talk (and hear) about themselves. Your letters should focus on the donor, and all of the good they are doing or could be doing by donating to your non-profit, than on the good deeds of your staff. Talk about the donor and you’ll raise more money.
#2 – Letters that Tell a Great Story Raise More
Most non-profit fundraising letters read like college textbooks. They’re full of statistics, numbers, program details and platitudes. In short, they’re no fun to read.
Great fundraising letters tell a story – a compelling story – where the donor is the hero, and working through your non-profit, he or she vanquishes a villain through the power of a donation. Don’t have a story like that for your non-profit? I’ll bet you do!
#3 – Letters that are Skim-able Raise More
It’s sad, but true: most prospects won’t read your whole letter. Instead, they will skim it for 10-30 seconds on the way to the trash can. Your job, as the letter writer, is to know which parts of the letter your donors will read on the way to the trash, and use those parts to make them want to read more and donate immediately.
Which parts do donors read while skimming your letter? The first sentence. Headlines and sub-headlines. Picture captions. Bolded and underlined phrases. The P.S.
Make your letters skim-able by including those things, and make sure those parts are compelling enough to make your donor want to read more.
Use these three strategies, and you’ll be raising more money with your fundraising letters in no time.
Photo Credit: Caitlin Regan
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