Looking over this past year, I've sent out articles like:
- how to get donations through mobile phones
- why fundraising is like a Waldorf salad
- speaking tips for the theatrically timid
- and how nonprofits can get started on Google+
I've even written about what Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas taught me about fundraising! But I haven't sent one specifically on writing fundraising letters!
Fundraising letters are a basic staple of fundraising. And even with social media getting all the press, fundraising letters are what is still faithfully bringing in money for nonprofits.
With fall upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere, it's time to make sure your nonprofit is in people's mailboxes. Hopefully 2-3 times.
Here are 3 tips for fundraising letters:
Mail multiple times
You should mail 3-4 times a year. I've heard of nonprofits having success with a 13 letter-per-year system, but that was always beyond my ability to consider managing!
But 3-4 times a year will help increase the odds that your letter reaches donors while they're in a "giving mood." And, more practically, in our mobile society mailing that frequently will help you keep up with address changes!
Make sure two of them happen between now and December 31st. This is a very generous time of the year, be sure to use that to your nonprofit's advantage.
Write from one person to another
Studies show that a letter signed by a "committee" or even by two people don't perform as well as letters sent by one person. So why reinvent the wheel. Just picture your ideal donor and write a letter to her. Be conversational. Use emotion. Talk about the donor, not about the nonprofit.
If you don't believe that, check out Tom Ahern's video on how refocusing a newsletter from the organization to donors helped a nonprofit raise 1000% more: http://bit.ly/501videosTomAhern
Don't write literature. Write something that could be read at 60 mph
In his book Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug says that web designers try to write literature when they should be writing billboards that could be read by a reader driving by at 60 miles per hour.
The same is true for fundraising letters.
Your donors are busy and distracted. Their world does not orbit around your nonprofit. So make your communications easy for them to digest.
- Use bold headings
- Align text to the left, don't justify it
- Use bullet points
Do what ever you can to break up the text so that even a skimmer will "get" your call to action.
Use a PS
This is so basic. Eye studies have shown for decades that people first glance to see if their name is at the top of the letter and then look at the postscript.
The most read message in your fundraising letter is the PS!
So make it good. Tell them what you're asking them to give for what purpose by what time. Keep it short, one or two lines max. And always include a deadline even if it's "by the end of the month" or "before December 31st." We respond well to deadlines. They help us sort out what needs to be done now and what can wait.
If your funding is needed now, be sure to let donors know. Otherwise it will end up in the "it can wait" pile (aka the trash can).
Whoops. That was four. I'm sure there could be a dozen more. What would you add?
UPDATE: I've created a free 4-week email course on writing effective fundraising letters. The form to sign up is in the middle of the page at http://fundraisingcoach.com/fundraising-letters/