The last thing you should ask for in a fundraising letter is a donation. You have no business asking for money until you have first persuaded your donor that you deserve her attention, value her time, appreciate her as a person, and want to partner with her in turning the world upside-down. Your donor comes first. Your request comes last. That’s why your fundraising letters need to be appealing in more ways than one.
They should appeal to the interests of your donors.
Every donor has an itch that needs scratching. For some donors, that itch is anger. Angry donors give to organizations that assuage their moral outrage. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has a few donors like that. For other donors, their itch is compassion. In a world filled with such deep human suffering, they feel compelled to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Your job as a direct mail fundraising letter writer is to find your donor’s itch and scratch it. In other words, your job is to discover why your donors give, and then give them that reason to give to your organization. Which means every appeal letter you write needs to appeal to your donor’s interests, not yours.
They should appeal to the rational side of your donors.
Even emotional appeals are based on a rational proposition. They don’t just show you a photo of a starving child and ask you to mail a cheque. They instead show you the starving child, enumerate the causes of the starvation (most of them man-made, usually), describe what the non-profit is doing to end the starvation, show how the donor’s support will make that happen, and then ask for a donation. Appealing fundraising letters don’t just play on emotions. They appeal to the need that all donors have to know that their financial support is realistic and useful.
The most successful fundraising letters today are appealing. They look appealing. They sound appealing. And they state their case for support in terms that resonate with donors, making the cause and the request for funds too appealing to pass up.