Most charities these days, large or small, are operating on tighter budgets than ever before. So when you spend good money to get a letter in the mail to your donors, make sure you get it right. Here are five all too common mistakes to avoid if you want your fundraising letter to actually raise funds:
- Every letter tries to cover everything you do. Most charities have various programs as part of their overarching mission. When writing a letter to your donors, it is not necessary to detail ALL the ways that your charity helps others. Even in acquisition, you don’t have to discuss EVERY single program provided by your organization. Instead, choose one compelling program to focus on and tell a personal, in-depth story that makes an emotional connection with your donor.
- Avoiding the ask. Never stray away from asking for donations. Don’t worry, you’re not being pushy. Direct mail means being direct with your supporters. Tell your donors exactly what you want them to do – DONATE! Remember to ask early and ask often. Unless you actually ASK for their help, very few donors will offer.
- Overlook the reply device. A common mistake is to write the response device as an afterthought once the letter is completed. Even before writing your letter, be clear on where it will lead your donor – it should be directly to the reply device. A good response form not only asks for the donation, but also reinforces the reason to give.
- Fundraising by committee. With every additional person who reviews your appeal, the copy gets weaker. Not better. Copy that’s written by committee fails to be “real” or authentic. Your letter should sound like it was written by a human being to another human being. Overall, strive for an informal, warm, conversational tone because that’s what people respond to.
- Copy is NOT donor-centric. When writing your copy, keep in mind that it’s not all about you or your nonprofit. After all, your charity didn’t rescue the litter of kittens found in the dumpster…Your charity didn’t build that water well for a poor village in Guatemala. Your donors did all that – and more! The truth is, your supporters want to know what’s in it for them. What they get may be intangible, but when they give they get something just the same. Your letter needs to offer it to them.
I hope you’ll remember these five mistakes to avoid when crafting your next fundraising letter. If you need additional help with your direct mail appeals, send me a recent sample and I’ll send you several ways to make it better – no cost or obligation!
You can send your direct mail sample to:
New River Communications
Attn: Sean O’Neil/Package Makeover
1819 SE 17 Street, Suite One
Ft. Lauderdale, FL