Sally Hayes has over 25 years of experience volunteering and working in the non-profit sector.
If you’re involved with a charitable organization striving to make the world a better place, you probably feel compelled to ask your friends and family to support that charity too. It's only natural to share your passion with the most important people in your life: your friends and loved ones.
Talking effusively about how much you believe in something isn’t always enough to move people to take action. But a well-written, personal letter describing your connection to a charity can help bring the people close to you closer to your favorite cause.
Here are some tips for how to write a fundraising letter for your next pledge drive, charity run or special event.
Things to Remember When You Write Asking for Donations
Be upfront about your motives. Why are you asking for money? What will the money be used for? How will it make a difference? These questions present a wonderful opportunity to tell your friends a story about what the organization means to you. Did the charity help you during a time of need? Do you have a family member who relies on a service provided by the charity? What issues does the charity fight for and how does that fit in with your own values and ethics?
Select your letter recipients carefully. Be thoughtful when deciding which of your friends and colleagues to ask for support. Be mindful of your friends’ personal circumstances when you’re developing your prospect list. Are they in a position to give at this time? Or are they experiencing unexpected hardship, illness or other bad news at the moment? Also, be mindful of your friends' personal beliefs and affiliations. Would it be appropriate to ask a friend who is an outspoken atheist to support a religious organization?
Be authentic, but keep your appeal letter classy and professional. Leave the gimmicks, stunts and spectacle to professional comedians and seasoned marketing teams. You don't need to humiliate yourself, put yourself in harm's way or spark a controversy to get attention. Don't oversell yourself or make bold and unrealistic claims about what you are willing to do to raise money for a cause you feel strongly about.
Write to one person at a time. Invite one person at a time to support your cause instead of sending out a blanket fundraising appeal. Charities send out unsolicited blanket appeal letters all the time. That’s because they can’t possibly build one-to-one intimate relationships with each of their prospective donors. You, on the other hand, have the time to personalize each of your letters because, unlike the charity with 10,000 names on its mailing list, you're working on a much smaller scale. It's easier for you to assess whether your friends are ready and willing to give.
Cheerfulness is a very great help in fostering the virtue of charity. Cheerfulness itself is a virtue.
— Lawrence G. Lovasik
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Charitable Giving Statistics in the U.S.
71% of all the money given to charities in the USA came from individual donors, while 5% came from corporations.
63% of American households give to charity with the average gift size being $ 2650.00
The most popular cause among donors is religious organizations (40%) while nature charities the lowest percentage of overall donations (4%).
Before You Send Your Letter Out
A few important reminders before you send your fundraising letter:
- Do your homework: read about any negative publicity, other conflicting events, the charity's fundraising rules and guidelines, and so on.
- If you are raising money through an initiative of your own, and not as part of a walk or run sponsored by the charity, contact the organization's fundraising department to discuss your pledge drive with them. Find out if they have any fundraising rules and guidelines that you need to be aware.
- Follow through on what you said you were going to do. If you said you'd walk or run a specific distance, then make sure you are healthy and fit enough to complete the challenge.
- Consider using snail mail instead of email or social media. Address your envelopes by hand and use a colorful stamp. These days, people are hungry for old-fashioned mail that comes from a real person and not a machine. If you want to increase the chances that your fundraising letter will be read, make it personal with your own handwriting on the envelope instead of a printed label.
- Provide clear instructions on how donors can fulfill their pledge. Do they need to write a check? Should they go online and make a credit card donation?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Sally Hayes