11 Tips for More Productive Fundraising Letters

Robert shares eleven tips for a more productive fundraising letter. Mullen ought to know. He’s the founder of one of the oldest and most successful ad agencies in Arizona. I have added in bold, with apologies to Mullen, my own comments.

1.Give greater focus to your appeal. People don’t want to give to a general fund. Be specific. They want to know: Why should I give to this organization, why this program, why now, and why me.

2. Always include the story of a grateful recipient. Make it compelling and dramatic. Not more than one story, or else the reader drowns in stories and never gets around to the request for a gift.

3. The letter should read as if it were from one person to another— friendly and conversational. Make it read as if you just sat down at your computer and typed a personal letter to a friend.

4. You will lose your audience in the first line or two. Get to the point as quickly as possible. You have to grab the reader by the lapels in the first few lines and never let go. Otherwise, they’ll never get the message.

5. A bland letter will not be read. Be certain to emphasize the point or major issue by indenting, bold facing, underscoring and/or italicizing. Paragraphs should not exceed five or six lines. No more than three sentences. Keep your sentences to six to eight words.

6. Use color very sparingly, if at all. The letter has to look like a letter— not a flyer. I say no color at all. It has to look like a letter.

7. Check carefully. The letter should be correct in its grammar, punctuation, capitalization, usage, and style. Certainly no spelling errors or typos, no flagrant grammatical errors. The letter is best when you write as you speak. This may mean you use colloquial terms if they make a point. I also give permission to use contractions, one word sentences, and exclamation marks for emphasis!

8. Avoid the temptation to seek committee approval of your letter. If you have a group read it, it will be homogenized and watered down. Amen! Having a committee read it is comparable to sending a group out on the streets to shoot the wounded.

9. People do read long letters— providing they are well-written, personal, and beneficial. People won’t read a one page letter if it’s not well written and compelling. Don’t worry if it goes to more than two or three pages. The letter needs to be as long as it needs to be.  

10. Don’t forget to ask for the order. The letter needs to lead the reader to the checkbook.

Books by Jerold Panas (click on the cover for more information)


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