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How to write more effective fundraising letters

Many charity communicators say that writing fundraising letters is one of the most difficult parts of their job. If you focus on a few basics, it’s easier than you think to write the kind of copy which generates impressive results for your charity or not-for-profit.

Things you'll need

  • A quiet space where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Your creativity.
1

Understand your target audience

Don’t even touch your word processor until you know who you’re writing for. Your target audience will determine everything about your letter from the words you use and the format you write in to the way it’s laid out. Think about what magazines they buy, what TV shows they watch and what social media they use. Now tailor your letter to meet their needs.

2

Make it personal

Once you can visualise a member of your target audience, make sure your copy speaks personally to them. Refer to them as “you”. Instead of using “I” or “me” use “we” or “our” so the reader feels like they’re making a connection with your organisation.

3

Grab your reader’s attention from the start

People remember good opening lines and fundraising letters are no different. You only have seconds to grab your reader’s attention so start in a way that you know will keep them reading. Compare “I’m writing from a charity called Befriending England” to “Sometimes your neighbour Ethel doesn’t see anyone for two weeks.”

4

Use case studies

Make sure you provide a personal story that allows readers to look past the statistics to the human stories beyond. You can either use direct quotes from a case study or tell their story. For example: “Rasheed spent last Christmas on his own, cold, hungry and on the streets. Without the Camden homeless shelter, I would be dead,’ admits the 16 year old.”

5

Be specific

“We help homeless children on the streets of London” sounds a little vague. What readers really want is concrete information about what your charity can achieve. Sentences like “We have 50 homeless shelters in the capital providing the warmth and food which could save over 150 young people’s lives this Winter,” make a strong, specific case for your work.

6

Don’t ramble

The length of your letter should be dictated by its contents. Or, to put it another way, keep writing for as long as you’ve got something to say, then stop. Don’t feel like you’ve got to shoehorn loads of extra information just to make up the word count. Readers associate huge blocks of text with bills, bank statements and other kinds of mail they aren’t keen on opening. Using plenty of white space makes what you have to say all the more inviting to your audience.

7

Include a call to action

There’s a purpose to writing your letter, so make sure you include it as a call to action. Your reader should start and finish the letter knowing what you want them to do.

8

Rewrite and revise

Using plain English isn’t about dumbing down your message. It’s about ensuring that every one of your readers understands what you have to say and has the opportunity to respond. Get feedback from a member of your target audience on an early draft to make sure your letter is crystal clear. Never stop at the first draft. Look again later and you’ll find that you can improve. Positive it’s finished? Then pass it on to your colleagues for their comments, and make sure it’s properly proofread before it reaches your supporters.

Further information

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Page last edited Nov 20, 2018 History

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