Seven Tips for Writing Your Next Appeal


What follows is a short list of quick tips for writing your next appeal letter or e-appeal.

It’s a short list because exhaustive lists can be … exhausting.

But what happens if you’re just trying to get a little better each time you Ask? What if you don’t want to reinvent your fundraising, but just to do this e-appeal better than the last e-appeal?

Then this list is for you.

Think of these as the 20% of tips that get 80% of results. The next time you write, do as many of these as you can. More of your donors will get your main message – and you’ll raise more money!

  1. Be able to summarize the problem that you’re writing about, and what the donor’s gift will do to fight that problem, in no more than two jargon-free sentences.
    • Your letter could be about the problem your organization is facing right now (e.g., ‘School is out, low-income kids won’t get enough to eat this summer…’) or the bigger/long-term problem your organization was created to help solve (e.g., ‘Our Jewish culture is dying out in the Chicago area…’)
  2. Say why you’re writing to the donor in the first two or three paragraphs.
    • The phrase “I’m writing to you today because…” is magic. Use it!
  3. Directly ask your donor to send in a gift somewhere in the first three paragraphs, and somewhere in the last three paragraphs.
  4. This often works perfectly with the “I’m writing to you today because…” phrase. High-performing letters often have couplets like this at the beginning of the letter:
    • “I’m writing to you today because many low-income kids are about to spend summer at home without enough to eat. Will you please send in a gift today to provide supplemental food for at least one child this summer?”
  5. Remember that most donors aren’t reading your Ask; they are scanning it. Two of the places they are most likely to actually read are the beginning and the end. So put your main message in both places to increase the chance your main message will be seen.
  6. Avoid the dreaded Wall of Text – the long paragraphs and long sentences that make up long sections that all run together. Instead, write in short sentences and short paragraphs.
  7. Use the word “you” a lot. I mean a LOT. Your donor should feel like the letter is to her, about something she cares about, and about what she can do about it. There should be at least twice as many uses of “you” as there are mentions of the letter writer and the organization.

Now, go get ‘em! Make your next Ask a little better than the one before. If you do that a few times in a row, you’ll be amazed by how much money you raise and how many more donors you retain!

This post is excerpted from the Better Fundraising e-book “Asks that Make Your Donor Take Action.” Download it for free, here.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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