5 Ways to Make Your Next Fundraising Letter Look Interesting Enough to Read

by Joe Garecht

Non-Profit Fundraising Letters

People don’t read letters that look boring or tedious to read.  Think about it — when you pick up your mail, do you read long sales letters, or text-heavy updates from organizations you support, written in 12 point type with no pictures or headlines?  Of course not — these types of letters look like a chore to read.  And no one needs another chore in their life.

If you want donors and prospects to read your fundraising letters, you need to make sure that letter looks interesting, exciting, and enticing… so interesting, in fact, that the person can’t help but read it.  Here are 5 ways to make your organization’s next fundraising letter look interesting enough to read:

#1 – Use a Headline

Using a compelling headline on your letter can grab people’s attention and get them to continue reading the rest of the text.  A headline is like an “advertisement” for the rest of your letter. If it is interesting enough, people will “buy” and read the next paragraph. Of course, if your headline isn’t interesting or compelling, it will actually dissuade people from reading, so make it good!

#2 – Use a Compelling, Bolded First Line

Headlines aren’t right for all letters. If you’re writing a letter and want it to feel more personal, you probably won’t use a headline. Instead, write an extremely compelling first line, bold it, and make it a one sentence paragraph. This will encourage people to read that first line, because it will really stand out. Imagine you get a letter from an organization you support and the first line simply says, “I need your help.” Or “Brenda Johnson is dying. Her kids need your help, and so do I.”

#3 – Use a Graphic

Using a picture or graph in your letter makes it look interesting, if that picture or graph is compelling. As they skim, people will look at your graphics… make sure they are so interesting that people will want to read the text around them to find out more information about the story the graphic is telling.

#4 – Tell a Story With Your Headlines and P.S.

As people skim your letter to decide whether to read it, some of the things they usually look at are the headlines / section headings and the P.S. One of the best ways to make your letter look interesting is to use those headlines and P.S. to tell a consistent story. For example, the five headlines throughout your letter could read something like:

Jimmy’s Mom Died When He was 5, and Now His Dad is Out of Work

Thousands of Single Parents in Our City are Struggling to Make Ends Meet

Your Generosity Saved Jimmy and His Family Last Year

This Year, We’ve Had to Turn Away Over 250 Families Who Need Our Help

Help Us Never to Have to Say “No” Again

These headlines tell a story so that if someone is only skimming through the headlines, they will still understand the gist of your letter, and perhaps be interested enough to read more… Then your P.S. can summarize the story and also contain a summary of the ask, so that if people only read the headlines and P.S. they still get “the ask.”

#5 – Use Color

Depending on the size and financial resources of your organization, you may or may not be able to afford to use color in your fundraising letters, but if you can afford it, using color generally makes a letter seem more interesting and appealing to your readers. You can use color in your letterhead / masthead, on your headings, in your pictures, etc. But don’t use anything garish, or else you will actually turn off recipients and they will stop reading the letter.

 

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder

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