The #2 Secret to Writing Fundraising Letters that Maximize Results

This is the second post trying to better identify specific strategies/tactics that consistently enable one copy platform to beat a fundraising control.  (The first is here.)

The essential issue:  What is the fundraising appeal really about?

Organizations — particularly board members and other internal reviewers — think the appeal should be about the organization itself and its mission.

Nope.  The more effective fundraising communication will really be about the action you want the recipient to take.


The purpose of your letter is not education.  You’re mailing to people who are already familiar with your organization and its mission.  They’re already donors.   Or you’re talking to rented names of folks with a known affinity for your cause.

You’re not trying to talk the recipient into giving you money.    Can you convince an indifferent reader to part with her hard-earned money?   No.  A letter is not a sufficiently powerful medium to do that.

Why do some acquisition lists fail utterly?  Because these people are poorly qualified.  They don’t really have an affinity for your cause.  And you simply can’t convert someone with the written word.

All you’re really doing is prompting people who are sympathetic to your cause to make a donation today.

Your donors know about you, understand your mission, and support it.  They have a demonstrated predisposition to make a contribution to your cause.

A good rental list has a good percentage who are dedicated to a cause that strongly overlaps with your own, so they share this predisposition.

So the purpose of your letter is not to educate or convince, it’s to prompt them to do something they’re already quite willing to do … and to make that donation right now.  (If they set the letter aside, planning to “do it later,” you’re lost that gift.)

“Make your donation … right now.”   Action and urgency.  That’s what it’s all about.

Devote more of your words, your real estate, your “visual cues” to action and urgency, and you’ll get more of those blessed predisposed supporters to make that gift.    Emergencies.  Matching gift challenges with deadlines.  Anything with deadlines … anything that adds to the urgency … will lift response.

Where do you put all these calls to take action? … this urgency?   All over the place!  As explained in our #1 Secret!

This entry was posted in Mail fundraising. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *