How to Write a Donor Letter for Fundraising

The following is a template on writing a highly effective donor letter or fundraising message. It incorporates recommendations from some of the top marketing and fundraising consultants in the business.

To be successful at fundraising, you need a strong will, an affirmation for success, and the consciousness of abundance. Money represents a flow of energy. Fundraising, therefore, is learning how to access a flow of energy, and use it properly for a continuous and sustainable flow.

Here’s a fun fact about fundraising online: “In 2013, 3 million people pledged $480 million to Kickstarter projects [the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects].” 

The energy is there, it is simply a matter of attracting that which is already yours.

How to format your fundraising donor letter or e-mail:

  • Subtitles: Use subtitles to break up your letter with exciting questions or captions that describe the general flow of your letter and the purpose of the succeeding paragraph.
  • Paragraphs: Use short paragraphs. Break them up by sections to help the reader more easily navigate the entire letter. Many people tend to scan, so this will help them capture the main message if they do so.
  • Interest and meaning: Keep the letter interesting and meaningful. Insert a powerful testimonial, use beautiful imagery, or display a photo that tells your story. Visual imagery is often more powerful than words, and speaks more deeply to what you are trying to communicate.
  • Remember: You are telling the story of your organization in order to touch people in some way that makes them want to support your cause.
  • If you are doing online fundraising, use a service like MailChimp to make your emails professional.

Outline:

Header and/or footer:

  • Contact information
  • Logo or Banner
  • Date of Send
  • Who you are writing to—including an individual’s contact information makes the relationship feel more personal
  • It is important to have a standard letterhead (which covers the header and footer) that you can use for outreach and promotional materials like donor letters

Part 1: Introduction
Establish what the purpose of the letter is about—right away! People have limited time and information overload. You must make it your purpose so obvious that they see it before they even have time to trash it.

Two key points to address:

  • Who are you?
  • What is your vision?

Part 2: Clarify your Purpose
It will be helpful to use the messaging or phrases and language (or frames) that have been already proved affective by marketing research. Think about what your organization offers that is unique, and how you fulfill the needs of the target audience. Then, use the same framework to answer the following questions of the reader:

Why did they write me?

Sample text:

We are writing you because we believe you share an appreciation for these same ideals. You also have valuable resources that could support this work. We are presenting you with a unique opportunity, by inviting you to join us in …

How are they doing it?

Sample text:

We are currently fundraising to finance… Our next step (or ultimate goal) will be…. Will you help us fund [state fundraising goal] and donate [time, money, resources]?

Then include any details or upcoming events that are relevant to this fundraising goal.

Part 3: Establishing Credibility
It is hard for any individual to support a cause that they don’t believe will spend their money wisely. On a recent marketing survey, when asked why people chose the organizations they donated to, the most common response was that they had established trust. Alternately, people donated to a cause with whom a friend or family member they trusted was affiliated.

Who is leading the cause?

  • Information on your organization, level of experience, education, and/or work background. Mention important names that you know will have immediate recognition
  • Mention your partnerships or affiliations with other credible organizations
  • Talk about how expansive your work is (how many countries, centers, etc. are involved or beneficially effected)

Part 4: Call to Action
When it comes to fundraising, the resultant action of your reader should be to donate resources in support of your cause, therefore, it is best to provide an immediate opportunity for them to act by giving the exact information they need to do so. Make this final action as simple and quick as possible.

What action do they want me to take?

How can I take this action?

Sample text:

We want you to attend the [name of event] and bring your talents, experience, and creativity to help us [goal]. 

List RVSP or details needed for informational purposes.

What do I get from this?

Why should I be inspired to take such action?

Here you would then tie back to your purpose—the cause or inspiration. Let them know what they are part of by taking action [such as positive social change]. After doing so, end with a strong statement like, “Please accept our invitation to [requested action].”

When? Provide the date and time

Where? For performances, media events, etc.

How? Give your contact information

To RSVP or [xx] contact [name] by phone: [#] or email: [email address]. For questions about this event or organization contact [name] by phone: [#] or email: [email address]. 

Sincerely,

[Additional contact information with job description(s)]

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