Direct Mail Fundraising – Tips to Improve Your Letter Writing

Fundraising letter writing tips to incorporate into your next direct mail campaign

With direct mail use up this year, nonprofit organizations are increasing the use of direct marketing for fundraising. And the key to a successful fundraising campaign is a strong letter. Having said that, few nonprofit organizations can afford to hire a professional, and it usually falls to one of the staff to write the letter.

But with a few tips and a little practice, you can write an effective fundraising letter that will capture your reader’s attention … and open their wallet.

Direct mail writing isn’t the “proper” writing we learned in high school. If your initial attempts seem that way, you’re trying too hard. You want your writing to come across as conversational and warm.

1. Write as if you’re talking to a good acquaintance. Use the words “I” and “we,” but use the word “you” even more often.

2. Use simple, straightforward language and short sentences. Feel free to use anecdotes and stories to engage your donor in your organization’s work, but don’t exaggerate or fabricate information.

3. Tell your donor how much to give, and what it will provide. Donors like to feel as if they’ve paid for something concrete: Ms. Smith, your $25 donation will provide one family with clean drinking water for a year.

4. Use subheads. Especially on longer letters, subheads are an important way to break up multiple paragraphs of text. Plus, most readers may skim the letter copy, but will definitely read the subheads.

5. Underlining or bold type – used sparingly - will capture your donor’s eyes. You can use it to draw attention to important information or a call to action.

6. Create a sense of urgency by asking your donor to send in their donation before a specific deadline. Because if you don’t, they probably won’t ever do it.

7. Don’t forget the P.S. Nearly every reader will look at a letter’s P.S. (see our blog on the direct mail eye study here), so you’ll definitely want to restate your request.

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