For example, have Jane write a draft of a letter, than read over it yourself, offering suggestions and ideas on how to make it stronger. Allow your committee to see and comment on the writing as it progresses. A few rounds of this type of editing can create remarkable results in a short period of time, producing a great, well-written letter that you'll feel confident in sending to potential donors.
But what if no one in your committee has experience writing letters for this sort of thing? Not to worry -- below are eight of the most effective letter-writing tips we've found, gathered through extensive research and experience.
Know Your Donors
Before beginning to write your letter, it's good to keep a simple question in mind -- who will you be asking for funds? How much time will they give to your letter? A contact list will be essential for your efforts, as you'll need to know names, addresses, and phone numbers for many people. The exact number will depend upon your fund drive goal and how much you're asking each person to donate.
Try to imagine what sort of request you would respond to, and then think about how the people you're writing to would respond to a similar letter. Will it be the same way you do? A letter requesting moneys from private citizens, for example, will be very different from one sent in hopes of winning a government grant. Do you have a list of past contributors? People who have given in the past are often willing to give again. Knowing your target audience will help to ensure a successful campaign.
Easy On the Eyes
Make your letter easy to read. Use wide margins and a good-sized font, and be sure to put spaces between your paragraphs.
Open Pleasantly and Draw Them In
When writing a letter of this sort, be cordial and intriguing -- make your potential donor want to keep reading. Many people will simply scan the first sentence of a letter and discard it if they're uninterested. People like to read about themselves - how does your cause relate to them, personally? Is there a story you can tell concerning a success of your group in a sentence or two?
If you're writing to past donors, be sure thank them for their contributions and refer to the success of the previous campaign, e.g. "Last year's campaign was a resounding success, and with your continued support..." This portion of your letter should not be more than a few sentences in length.
Be Sincere -- Make Your Case
Tell them why they'll be donating to your effort! If you're asking for the benefit of particular cause, now is the time to make it known. After the friendly introduction, state your case passionately and succinctly -- 150 words (a good-sized paragraph) should do the trick.
Tell your reader what their donations will be used for and how the money will be spent. Don't be afraid to use emotional language -- let your readers know how strongly you believe in the need your church or cause has, and how important it is that they donate as they're able.
Ask for a Specific Amount
Research shows that letter-writing campaigns are up to 30% more effective when you ask for a specific donation. Mention how much donations of this amount have helped your congregation in the past, and stress the need for continued support. Basically, a particular dollar value helps to make the decision more concrete for a potential donor -- it is now something they really have to consider, and, as such, your chances of seeing a good return will be better.
However, also be sure to mention that donations above and below the suggested amount are welcome -- as with any fund drive, every little bit helps. This portion should come just before the conclusion of your letter, and a sentence or two should be sufficient.
Thanks and Conclusions
Cordially thank your reader for their time and consideration of your cause in a few sentences. Take a moment to remind them of all the good reasons why they need to contribute to your fundraiser. And, of course, sign your letter! A hand-written signature lets people know that this is not a form letter - a real person has written to them and is asking for their help and consideration.
Think About Including a Second Page and a Return Envelope
If you feel that you have more great information about your cause to share with your readers, consider including a second page insert with more details and photographs. It will raise your costs slightly, but it may be worthwhile if you think that it will make a significantly stronger case for your group's request.
Including a return envelope will also raise your costs a bit, but it's a very direct way of encouraging returns from your potential donors. Making the donation process as easy as possible for people who are on the fence about contributing to your cause will bring you greater returns in the long run.
Make Follow Up Phone Calls!
This step is one of the most important for a direct-mail campaign. A week to two weeks after sending your letters, consult your contact information list and begin to place calls to your potential donors. Confirm that they've received the letter you sent, and ask them if they have any questions you might be able to answer. Be persistent -- if they're unwilling or unable to donate the amount you've requested, suggest smaller amounts until you find the level of giving they're comfortable with.
This tactic won't work with all donors, but you'll find that many arewilling to give what they can. Though time-consuming, research shows that follow-up phone calls can significantly increase your returns. Sometimes, in order to make a donation a person simply needs to hear a human voice (yours!) confirming what a fundraising letter has already told them.
Though directly asking for money can sometimes make us uncomfortable, remember that a letter-writing campaign can be a highly effective way of raising funds for your church. Often, you can see a big return for the cost of a few stamps! Following the steps above will help to ensure a great fundraising letter, which is the key to a successful direct-mail campaign.