Tip O' the Moment

Write to ONE Person

This is true of ALL your Direct Mail communication -- heck, all of your communication with your donors, period -- but don't forget that a fundraising letter is a personal letter from ONE person in your organization to ONE donor.

Yes, most of your donors will get the same letter, but when you're writing it, don't think of your donors as a mass group of anonymous sacks of donation money.

One of my clients keeps a photo of a kind-eyed senior citizen above his computer to remind him who is reading his letter. He calls her Verna, and whenever he crafts an ask, he imagines how Verna will react.

You, too, should write to your own Verna, the one person who stands in for your entire audience of donors.

In these days of e-mail and Facebook, the art of letter-writing is waning, but try to think about how you would ask an old friend to support your cause.

Would you give them your official mission statement and a bulleted list of accomplishments and leave it at that? Or would you ask them questions, remind them of shared experiences and explain how important it is to you, personally, that they support this cause? (Hint: it's the latter!)

One simple trick for making a letter personal is to write the first draft starting every paragraph with I, You, or We statements:

  • "I know you are someone who cares about the future of our planet."
  • "You are no doubt aware of the growing gap between the rich and poor in this country. But did you know..."
  • "We never back down from a fight we believe in!"

Above all, when you're writing fundraising copy think more about what your donor gets out of supporting your organization, not what you get from their support.