Book cover image Open-Immediately-Straight-Talk-on-Direct-Mail-Fundraising-CoverReading Stephen Hitchcock’s Open Immediately: Straight Talk on Direct Mail Fundraising, I’ve been reminded of one of the great truths of fundraising, one I’m calling Fundraising Secret #15: people give to people.

This is one of the reasons fundraising letter templates don’t work. They’re like a fundraising version of Mad Libs: easy to fill in the blanks but sort of funny sounding when they’re read.

And that’s why impersonal “Dear Friend” letters don’t work well either. But even if you insert a donor’s name, it’s really easy to sound impersonal in fundraising letters.

According to Hitchcock’s extensive research, fundraising letters get better response rates without brochures. I’d imagine this is because brochures are, by their very nature, impersonal.

So don’t include a brochure and don’t let you letter sound like a brochure! To help resist the temptation to become impersonal, Hitchcock advises using conversational language and having only one signature at the end of a solicitation letter.

A technique I use for overcoming impersonality is doing demographic research to find out who my typical donor is:

  • how old,
  • what gender,
  • where she lives,
  • how big her family is, etc.

Once I’ve done the work, I write to that person. It’s helpful to get a picture of what that person might look like to put on your computer monitor. And I always give her a name.

However you fundraise for your nonprofit–whether you’re asking for money in a fundraising letter, on the web, or in person–remember this timeless truth: people give to people.

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[For the prior “Fundraising Secrets” posts, go to:]

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