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How To Write an Annual Appeal – From Top to Bottom



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How To Write an Annual Appeal – From Top to Bottom

In a world so focused on digital marketing, it’s easy to find tons of great ideas for fundraising online. 

But the humble direct mail fundraising letter – like your nonprofit’s annual appeal – hasn’t fallen out of favor. In fact, reaching out to your donors by mail is more important than ever to cut through all that virtual noise.

And if this is your first time or if writing a letter sounds daunting, take heart… It’s not as tough as it sounds. Most fundraising letters share common elements, even amongst organizations with different missions. 

Here’s what to include in yours.

Basic Organizational Information

Start by placing your organization’s name and logo. These should feature prominently in your letter, most often in the header section. Keep the rest of the design, like colors and layout, complementary to elements.

Be sure to include your organization’s basic contact information your address, phone number, an email address, website URL, and any other pertinent ways donors can get in touch.

Consider adding a list of board members and key staff. If your donors know people who work with your organization, seeing their name will be an incentive to give. 

Board and staff information can appear in the header or footer of your letter or elsewhere in the design.

Greeting & Introduction

Traditionally, fundraising letters include your donor’s name and mailing address, aligned left. While this isn’t totally necessary, it can be helpful in matching a letter to an envelope when you have many donors to contact! 

Next, include the date you plan to mail the letters – approximate is fine. 

Then comes your greeting. Use your donor’s preferred name, if you know it, but stay consistent with your brand voice otherwise. If you usually write in a formal tone, use your donor’s last name, as in “Dear Ms. Jones.” Something like “Hi, Joe!” may work better if your communications are usually more frank or informal.

It’s always a good idea to print a handful addressed to “Dear Friend,” as well, for any last-minute handouts.

The Body of Your Fundraising Letter

You may choose to begin your letter with a note about your relationship to the donor. This is difficult with a large donor base, so segmenting recipients into groups by event attendance or donor size can be helpful.

The rest of your letter should tell a story. Don’t list the reasons a donor should make a gift! Choose compelling talking points, and hook your readers by tugging on their heartstrings.

Your call to action should be clear throughout your letter. You’re looking to fundraise – be direct about the amount you’re looking for. Avoid suggesting a donation amount that’s unrealistic for your donor. Consider segmenting and personalizing your list by average gift size.

End your letter by thanking your reader for considering a gift. Add a sign-off from your organization’s leader or board chair. 

Don’t forget to include a “PS” that reinforces your fundraising message! Many people flip a letter over and read the postscript before anything else. 

Your Annual Appeal Should Include a Story

The story you tell in your letter is critical. You must address both the need and the impact that a donor’s gift can have… And you need to do it all in a way that’s compelling and motivating for your readers.

While that can certainly feel like a tall order, the key is to write simply and directly. Explain what your nonprofit does in the terms you’d use to describe your work to family or friends. Don’t be thrown off-course by a need for formality – warmth is motivating!

Let your readers know just how valuable a donation is and exactly what monetary contributions can do for the community you serve. 

Join NPO Centric’s membership program for your one-stop annual appeal shop!