Yes, good direct-marketing fundraisers are always writing to an individual. At least in one sense. As you compose a letter, it helps to have an individual in mind, and to write in a manner that “talks” one-on-one to a single person.
But face it, a whole lot of people are going to read this letter, with any luck. So while we’re writing TO a reader, we’re also writing INTO a readership. Consider then…
… You’re writing to a group of people with certain dispositions. If you have the right mailing list, they are all disposed toward you appeal. They believe in your cause. They agree with you.
… You’re NOT writing to people who have no idea what you’re talking about. So don’t over-explain. Do tell them who you are. Write to them knowing that they know who you are.
… You’re NOT writing to people who actively DISAGREE with what you’re saying. You’re not seeking converts … you’re preaching to the choir, so don’t try all that hard to convince them. They already believe in you. Play to your shared understanding … and cause.
… You’re generally writing into a general LIFE STAGE. These people are all of a certain age. They share some history. You can talk to that history and they’ll know what you mean. Talk out of it and they won’t.
… You’re writing into a donor level. A letter generally goes to a group selected for their giving patterns, their highest previous donation / most recent donation range. You should think about what you’re asking FOR and elevate your appeal accordingly. A big gift is a very personal ask, to someone who REALLY knows what you’re talking about and REALLY shares your goals. Feel free to acknowledge this and write into such a mindset!
And you’re writing out of and into a broader world situation, as it pertains to your cause. Maybe something in this environment triggered the appeal. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t talk about that broader world, lest that be a digression or distraction. Or worse, a reminder of some other cause or a reason not to give to your organization today.