Sometimes we get so focused on the marketing technology that’s at our fingertips that we lose sight of what our real marketing goals are. Successful marketing isn’t about reaching the maximum number of people for the smallest amount of money. It’s really about reaching the right people with the right message—and moving them to action.
Nowhere is that more important than when you’re engaging in fundraising. So how do you write a great fundraising letter? What makes it great? Here are five things that can help you write a letter that people want to read and respond in the way you want them to.
1. Write your letter to the right audience
Sending a fundraising appeal to the wrong audience pretty much guarantees your response will tank. Be particularly careful in your list selection. And, be careful about making assumptions when purchasing an outside list. Superficial similarities between your organization and another may not be enough to cause someone to open up their pocketbook. But the same principle also applies to your own database. Some people may want to contribute to a capital fund. Others may want to give to projects that are more “people” oriented. Try segmenting your list into more discrete categories that reflect what constituents like to support.
2. Craft the right message
If your message is off, you’re wasting money sending out a letter—even if you’re sending it to the right people. Anticipate the questions your audience may have. Give them unusual insight into the need and how they can have an impact. If possible, give examples of how your organization has had success in a similar effort. People respond to need but also to success.
3. Tell people what you want
If you neglect giving a clear call to action you likely won’t get a response. Sometimes organizations are hesitant to ask for money. Don’t be. Your constituents know they are going to get fundraising appeals. They expect that. Don’t bury your request. Be upfront with it. You don’t have to badger people to give, but you shouldn’t be shy about it either. If you believe in what you’re doing and you need help—ask. Be specific. Your donors need to know exactly how much you need.
4. Put it into perspective
Sometimes it’s helpful to provide people with a frame of reference. It’s one thing to ask someone for $500. But when you compare it to a $2 cup of coffee every working day it’s easier for someone to say, “I can do that.”
5. Write as an individual
Finally, nobody wants to get a letter from an organization. People want to hear from people. Make sure your letter has a personal tone. That doesn’t mean sharing things that are private, but your letter should have personality to it. Here are some tips to help with that. Organizations don’t have feelings—people do. One of the best ways to make things personal is to tell stories that engage readers rather than trying to convince them.