Writing a Donation Request Letter That Gets Results
Part 1

Writing a successful donation request letter is much easier when you use the same copywriting formulas professional copywriters use to write persuasive communications.

A copywriting formula is a marketing concept that explains how the copy moves customers (donors) through the decision-making process and (ultimately) take the desired action (the call to action).

In nonprofit fundraising, that call to action is ... asking constituents to support your organization's mission through contributions of time, talent, influence and money.

One of the copywriting formulas I like to use when writing a donation request letter is the 5Cs formula: copy that is: Compelling ... Clear ... Comprehensive ... Concise ... Credible.

These are the precise elements of a well-written, effective fundraising letter ... a letter that is clear, compelling, concise and credible.

Use The 5Cs copywriting formula ... and you’ll write a stronger donation letter.

Write a Compelling Donation Request Letter

Your letter must answer (for your reader), "What's in it for me?" Copywriters refer to this as focusing on the benefits (how good your donors will feel by supporting the organization) rather than focusing on the features (how the organization operates).

An effective fundraising letter (like all good fundraising communications) makes a strong, emotional connection with your donor. It appeals to the compassion we all feel as human beings who want to make this a better world for all of us.

Based on your market research (the reasons why donors give to your organization), find the emotional trigger that will prompt your readers to respond to your letter. Which benefit (of being a donor) does your reader desire most?

Good nonprofit fundraising communications - including fundraising letters - focus on the donor. A good letter expresses how the donor has made all the organization's good work possible.

After writing your draft, count how many times you've used the word "you" and how many times you've used the words "we" or "I." If you have more of the latter rather than "you," rewrite the letter.

Include a sense of urgency. Give a deadline for your call to action. Ask readers to respond by a specific date. Be explicit about the response you want and about the deadline for that response.

Write a Clear Donation Request Letter

Decide the purpose of your fundraising letter and what response you want from the reader. Be explicit about that purpose and the specific call to action you want your reader to take.

Let your reader know exactly why you are writing to her and what you want her to do in response to your letter. If you want a financial donation, ask for a financial donation.

The number one reason people do not contribute is because they are not asked. Clearly, plainly, unambiguously ... ask for the donation.

Write in a conversational tone. Write your letter to a single person. Envision an imaginary person who has the qualities of your target audience (Are they primarily women head of households? Are they primarily retirees? Are they primarily ), and write a letter to that person as if you were having a conversation.

Make your letter visually appealing and easier to read by having as much white space on the page as possible. Use a large font - 11 or 12 is preferable.

Avoid jargon and buzzwords. Don't use language that is unique to fundraising or to your organization, terms or phrases your readers many not understand. If you have to use jargon, fully explain what the term means. Make it easy for your reader to understand what you are saying.

Write a Comprehensive Donation Request Letter

Comprehensive copy anticipates and answers every possible question and concern the grant reviewer may have.

Have other people read your draft, preferably people who are not closely associated with your organization.

Ask the reviewer if s/he has any questions about your programs, request, or how you've presented your arguments for funding.

Include any insights your reviewer has mentioned, if it's appropriate and if it helps create a more comprehensive fundraising letter. 

In Part 2, I'll talk about Concise and Credible donation request letters, the other two Cs in my favorite copywriting formula for nonprofits.

You can read Part 2 of my article by clicking here.

Need help writing your donation request letter?

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The 5Cs - A perfect copywriting formula for writing nonprofit fundraising communications ...