Oh, how I wish I had this fundraising letter template when I first started writing for nonprofits and ministries!
I’d just completed AWAI’s Six-Figure Copywriting Course (which was awesome) and I’d learned basic copywriting skills.
But I struggled to adapt those tools to the nonprofit and ministry marketplace. I knew that I needed to use all those yummy persuasive copywriting techniques, but I also knew that donors didn’t want a hard sell. Plus, appeal letters for small to mid-size organizations tend to be much shorter (1-2 pages) than long-form sales letters and direct mail.
I learned to adapt. But it took some time and a whole lot of mistakes.
If you’re a copywriter, ministry writer, or content writer (or want to be one), then writing appeal letters is part of your bread and butter. Even if you’re a general freelancer, then there’s a good chance you’ve been asked (or will be asked) to write a fundraising letter, whether for a client or for an organization that you support.
But you may feel all cringey at the idea of asking people for money and like me, you may struggle with transitioning those copywriting skills to appeal letters.
If so, then I hope this fundraising letter template worksheet helps you make that crossover with ease.
The template is flexible. You can use it to write either a print letter, an email campaign –or both. When you download it, you’ll see that it is a template formatted as a worksheet where you can scribble ideas for each section of your letter. (Download the template worksheet here and read on.)
Personalize your appeal with the recipient’s first name. Spell it correctly. You want your reader to feel like you know her. If you or your client cannot personalize your campaign with mail merge, then identify your reader as specifically as possible. Example: “Dear friend of hurting Pennsylvania families …”
Open your appeal with a vivid, emotional story about your work that illustrates the need or impact of a gift. Connect your reader to the story by speaking directly to her with “You” language (“You can make a big difference for these hurting children with your gift”) and highlight how they can help (“Your gift will allow this program to continue”).
Offer a call to action right at the top of the letter – one that prompts the reader to give. The reason for this is quite simple: some readers are predisposed to giving a gift and will want to get on with the process without reading the rest of your letter. Make it easy for her to do so. Tell her a specific dollar amount. In print appeals, use a bold font for the call to action. In email appeals, link the entire call to action to your giving page. Example: “Your gift of $200 will guarantee that more children like Shauna have a safe place to go after school for tutoring, healthy snacks, and character education for the entire spring semester. Please join us today to create a better future.”
Connect the dots between the gift and your mission. Provide detail about what the donor’s gift will make possible and how that lines up with what you do. Clarity and specificity are vital. Example: “Without your gift, children like Shauna will be unsupervised, hungry, and unsafe until bedtime, rather than having a safe, loving place to go after school for tutoring, healthy snacks, and character education.”
Repeat your call to action, but now do so with urgency. Make sure donors know why you need them to act now. Tell the reader exactly what to do (“Click on this link” or “Complete the response device right now, while you’re thinking about it”). Explain why she should act right away (“Our matching donor will double your gift if we receive it by December 31.”)
Thank the reader for her support. Inspire them with a positive, hopeful outlook for the future, reminding her about the beneficiaries you mentioned in your opening story: “Because of you and partners like you, Shauna and their friends have a hope for a successful school year.” Include your signature.
Siegfried Vögele (1931-2014), the “Albert Einstein of Direct Mail,” called the P.S. the first paragraph of your letter, not the last – because over 90 percent of readers read the P.S. before any other element.
This is THE place to offer a clear Ask. Reinforce the sense of urgency to encourage donors to act right away. Example: “You are our most trusted partner in the fight for a better education. We are so close to our goal. Your gift today will help put us over the top before December 31. Give here. Thank you!”
I’m a big fan of not reinventing the wheel. That’s why I like writing formulas, blueprints, and templates.
So I hope you'll download this fundraising letter template here. I’ve formatted it as a worksheet so you can fill in your appeal content and get started writing your own powerful fundraising appeals. And let me know how the template worksheet helps you!
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Content by award-winning content writer and author Kathy Widenhouse, who specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
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