How do you take a mass-mailing fundraising letter and make it
sound personal? By using the right pronouns, ones that nurture
the bond that you have with your donors.
The mistake to avoid is referring to your organization as a
faceless organization, such as “Spencer College wants you to . .
.” or “Mt. Sinai Hospital has a new . . .” Letters written in
that style sound institutional and impersonal. Here is an
example of what I mean, taken from the book Direct Mail
Fundraising Letters That Work, by Robert L. Torre and Mary Anne
IMPERSONAL: Winthrop-University Hospital provides the community
with the best health care.
PERSONAL: When you and your loved ones need medical attention,
Winthrop-University Hospital is ready to serve you.
The first example refers to “the community,” which is
impersonal. The second example mentions “you,” “your” and “you,”
establishing a personal connection with the donor.
Another way to sound personal is to identify with the donor’s
world or to have the donor identify with yours. Instead of
saying “we want our supporters to write to their member of
parliament about the Federal Gun Registry,” you could say, “I
share your concerns about the Federal Gun Registry. That’s why I
want you to join us in writing to your member of parliament.”
To encourage your donors to identify with your world, use
pronouns that communicate commonality. For example, you could
refer to your clients as “the homeless people of New York City.”
But that sounds as cold as they usually are. Another way of
writing that is to refer to “the homeless people of our city.”
Using the right pronouns (you, your, we and others) in your
appeal letters helps you build relationships and retain your
donors, even when you mail your letters to thousands of donors
that you do not know personally.