How to write a fundraising letter for Sister Catherine

February 11, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: How-to Guides 

write fundraising letter

Imagine a local school asks you to write a fundraising letter to raise money for a new library.

You sit down at your computer and start typing.

They laughed when I suggested a new library, but when the kids started to read …

Dear Parent,

It hit me like a bolt of lightning!

The kids at St. Mary’s Middle School don’t read. For years, no one could figure out why. But now, a new breakthrough scientific study has revealed the shocking answer. NO LIBRARY!

That’s right. How can kids read if they have no books?

I ran into the same situation at my former school and after years of hand-wringing, trying every reading program under the sun, we experimented with a simple, book-lined library. And it worked!

Instantly, kids started to check out books and read them. The results were astonishing. And now you can get the same breathtaking results at St. Mary’s. With no risk or obligation.

You’ll be amazed when kids start checking out books in a wild frenzy of curiosity. You’ll stare wide-eyed as their brains swell and explode with knowledge. They’ll go to college. Get degrees. Be elected President. Discover medical cures. Travel to the stars.

Others may ask for a donation of $500 or more, but I’m not going to ask for $500 or $350 or even $200. In fact, I won’t even ask for $100.

For the next 28 days, you can donate to the St. Mary’s Library, soon to be jam packed with big, thick, juicy books, for just $49.95!

Your satisfaction is GUARANTEED! If you’re not 100% satisfied with the new library, just ask for you money back within 30 days after the grand opening, and you’ll receive a full refund (less processing fee), no questions asked!

What do the kids at St. Mary’s have to say?

“Yeah, I guess I’d read a book. If we had any.” – Johnny S.

“I don’t want to grow up dumb. Other kids have a library. Why not us?” – Sally Q.

“What’s a book?” – Pete H.

Don’t delay! This is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a lasting legacy for the kids at St. Mary’s Middle School. Mail your check today!

Sincerely,
Sister Catherine

P.S. WAIT! If you donate within the next 28 days, you’ll receive the Orange Zester 3000, the amazing new kitchen tool used by all the top chefs in Brockton, PA. Donate TODAY!!!

Uh … yeah.

Writing a fundraising letter isn’t the same as writing a letter to sell widgets and slicer-dicers.

With most “selling” copy, your job is to encourage a transaction. But with fundraising, your job is to make a more subtle appeal for assistance.

How about you hit the delete key and try that letter one more time.

The children of St. Mary’s are asking for your help …

Dear Parent,

I have bad news.

Our recent fundraising event to build a school library fell short of our goal. And unless we can raise the last $50,000, we won’t get the matching funds available to us from the National School Alliance (NSA).

Sadly, that means no library. No books. And another year of giving our children an education that’s less than they deserve.

We need your help right away. Can you afford a gift of $50? We’ve written to 1000 of our best, most reliable supporters. And if each of you can spare just $50, we’ll reach our goal, get the funding we need, and build the library we’ve promised our young students.

We don’t like asking you for yet another donation, since you’ve been so generous already. But frankly, you’re our last resort.

As you know, St. Mary’s has a reputation for educational excellence and high student test scores. But in the last few years, we’ve fallen behind. This is due to our inability to afford a proper library with the modern tools and resources today’s students (and teachers) need.

Without your help, we face another year of going without.

Can you find it in your heart to give just $50? We need your help today. The deadline for getting the matching funds is just 4 weeks away.

Thank you for your years of generous support. It’s people like you who make our school, and our community, a shining example of what community spirit can accomplish.

Sincerely,
Sister Catherine

P.S. To show our appreciation for your gift, a memorial brick with your name will be placed at the entrance to the new library. This will remind our students of how you helped to build a path for their future.

This is only a quick example, much shorter and far less polished than you would actually write for a fundraising letter. But it shows the difference. The approach is softer. More emotional. More personal.

To sell, you tug at the wallet. To raise funds, you tug at the heart.

Related posts:

  1. How to write the perfect sales letter
  2. 11 powerful emotions to supercharge fundraising letters

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Smart Comments

7 Comments on How to write a fundraising letter for Sister Catherine

  1. Mary on Feb 11th, 2010 12:07 pm
  2. Right on. I’ve written far too many fundraising appeals in my time, and while I’m much more comfortable writing a hard sales piece than an emotional appeal, turning on the ‘gush’ works every time. Also, it’s key to ask for a specific amount several times, as you did.

  3. Dean Rieck on Feb 11th, 2010 12:22 pm
  4. Mary:
    It’s all about the rhythm and tone, though that’s hard to explain. So much of good copywriting works on a gut level and can’t be reduced to bullet points.

  5. Lorraine on Feb 16th, 2010 11:41 am
  6. It’s true you can’t use exactly the same format and language for fundrasing appeals as long-form sales latters.

    But successful fundraising appeals do rely on persuasion techniques not unfamiliar to traditional marketers.

    Strong fundraising materials focus on donors’ kind hearts, rather than organizations’ outstretched hands.

    Donors rationally know all the good reasons they should give. But they don’t use reason to make donation decisions anymore than consumers use reason to make buying decisions.

    Sure, donors want to know about NGO’s good works, responsible money management and outcomes. But the decision to donate is emotional.

    And more than that, donors want to get something out of the transaction: They want to feel they make a difference in the world, memorialize a loved one, pay back an emotional debt, feel spiritual purpose, feel powerful (e.g. “naming” donations) and more.

    Katye Andreson’s Robin Hood Marketing is a good primer that delineates this donor self-interest. It’s a real eye-opener for most non-profit organizations.
    .-= Lorraine’s last blog … Copywriter’s Confession: I Get Cold Feet When I Write Hot Copy =-.

  7. Dean Rieck on Feb 16th, 2010 11:59 am
  8. Lorraine:
    All true.

  9. Merryl Rosenthal on Apr 9th, 2010 4:09 am
  10. Your post goes to the very core of good
    copywriting: know your audience; know
    the proper voice and style.

    Thanks!

    Cheers. :)

  11. Nahyan on Apr 26th, 2010 11:33 pm
  12. very nice, i liked the compare and contrast.

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