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How to Write a Direct Mail Fundraising Letter (Four Tips)

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1. Address your reader as a friend, not as

When was the last time you received a
letter from someone dear to you, addressing you as “Dear
Friend?” Never, right? The days of the Dear Friend letter are
dead. I heard recently of a chairman of the board of a national
charity who has given his charity millions of dollars and
hundreds of hours of his time, yet he still receives fundraising
appeals from this charity addressing him as “Dear Friend.” Ouch.

2. Arrest attention with an opening that resonates with
your donors.

Assume your reader is standing over
a trash can with a stack of today’s mail, reading the opening
sentence of each letter before deciding its fate. You have only
a few seconds to grab the reader’s interest. So make it a
zinger. Here are two openings for the same non-profit. Which one
grabs your attention and makes you want to read on?

Opening 1: “I am writing to you to ask if you would like to
support a low-income housing building project in your

Opening 2: “If I invited you to walk over to your neighbour’s
house with a bundle of roof shingles under your arm as a gift,
what would you do?”

3. Put flesh and bones on your need.
truth in fundraising is that people give to people to help
people. So always describe your need in terms of people, not
programs, not ministry, not money.

INSTEAD OF SAYING . . . We operate three vans.
SAY . . .
The three vans that we use for emergency medical relief play a
vital role in saving lives throughout the year.

INSTEAD OF SAYING . . . Essential medicines in many countries
are not affordable.
SAY . . . Phillip Mbago is dying from
a treatable disease for no other reason than this–he can’t
afford his cure.

4. Ask for funds by painting a picture.
Don’t just ask for a donation. Show your readers how their
donations will make a difference. Instead of saying, “Send a
gift today,” say, “Your gift to Habitat for Humanity today means
that another family will soon move into a simple, decent,
affordable home–thanks to you.”

© 2005 Sharpe Copy Inc. You may reprint this article online and
in print provided the links remain live and the content remains
unaltered (including the “About the author” message).


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  • Posted On May 21, 2006
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