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How to Create a Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Letter

Your nonprofit fundraising letter isn’t just a letter; it also includes a mailing envelope, a reply envelope and card, and sometimes a brochure, a copy of a newspaper clipping, or a photograph. All these pieces should relate to one another and convey a clear, compelling message.

The outer envelope should be inviting to open. For instance, did you use a first-class stamp? Did you handwrite the address and add a special message?

The letter itself should give readers enough information that they feel involved in the cause. Most of it should be dedicated to describing the problem that the organization is trying to solve. After that, it discusses how things can be turned around for the better and the organization’s specific method or program for doing so.

The letter closes with a vision for how things will look if the plan succeeds, and usually includes a combination of short and long paragraphs. Often a key point is underlined or printed in bold for emphasis.

The reply envelope and card should be easy to use, and the reply card should offer a variety of gift levels. Your nonprofit can get a permit from the post office to offer postage-paid envelopes, which make it easier for donors to respond.

Try out your letter at first on your organization’s internal lists of board contacts, clients, and donors. Then continually build your potential donor list by making it a habit to collect names, addresses, and e-mails at events you present and meetings and conferences you attend.

Just as important as collecting names for your list is taking care of those names — especially of those who become donors. You want to develop a good database system for recording information about new donors in order to thank them, keep in touch with them, and ask for their support again in the future.

You’ll find that database programs — usually called fundraising or membership management software — to manage your donor information come in various degrees of complexity and prices. Choose the one that’s best for your needs.

Just because a donor stops giving for a year or two doesn’t mean you should drop him from your list. A lapsed donor is more likely to contribute to your organization than someone who has never given before. However, after five years it’s probably wise to drop them from your list.

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