Make your appeal donor-friendly – a checklist

People give to people. Use a personal voice in fund appeals.Before you sign off on that spring mail appeal to donors, take one last look. Have you really done everything you can to help friends like me respond with a donation?

Have you addressed me personally? Have you used the word “you” in nearly every paragraph? Have you thanked me? Have you shown me how important I am to your work?

Have you used a human voice? Use the singular pronoun “I,” not the snooty “We.” Speak the everyday language you would use with a neighbor or friend. Replace insider jargon with words your Mom would understand.

Have you asked me clearly for money? Don’t try to sneak up on me with your ask. Tell me up front that you’re writing for my help with an important need and what specific amount or range of contributions you’re hoping I’ll consider. Then remind me again at the end (after you’ve made me care).

Have you explained how my donation will make a difference and to whom? A story or testimonial from someone who benefited from my past donations adds credibility to this promise.

Have you created urgency? Why do you need my money right now? To earn a matching gift? To be sure you can serve every deserving student when school opens?  To influence legislation before the session ends? A deadline demands a decision.

Are you telling me one complete story? A letter about your mentoring program, with a personal story, some data and your need for donations to meet the need for more mentors would be one complete letter, with one strong reason for me to give.

Have you cut everything that doesn’t help you get the gift? Don’t distract me from the idea of supporting more mentors with information about your homework club. Save it for your next appeal.

Have you made it as easy as possible for me to respond? I still get mailings without a reply coupon or addressed reply envelope enclosed.

I believe many writers fail to focus directly on the goal of the gift because they feel it will be seen as rude or mercenary. But trying to “sneak up” on the donor with your ask doesn’t work.

When I open a letter from Amnesty International, I know there will be a request for a donation inside. What I don’t know is whether there will be a good enough reason to respond right now in there, too. Creating that reason is your job as a writer.

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