The best way to ask major donors when you can’t get in front of them in person

Major donor fundraising should be intentional and relational.

But sometimes you can’t be as relational as you’d like! Sometimes donors are unable to meet. A large percentage of your donors won’t even be interested in meeting.

Or even speaking to you.

But there are times when you still need to ask them for a donation!

Thankfully, many of them will open mail from your organization. And that’s why mailed appeals to major donors are still so successful.

Super Simple Guide

I’ve had to do this a lot over the years, and here’s a quick list of the tips I’ve found to be most helpful:

  • Send the appeal in a large envelope. 9×12 should do the trick.
  • Hand-address the envelope and use a live stamp (no meter postage).
  • Send a longer letter than you would to your mass donors. 4+ pages should give you the room you need to make your case for support.
  • Most donors won’t read the entire letter, but they will scan it. Design the letter to be easy to read, and underline a couple of key things; specifically the reason you’re writing them today and what you hope they will do.
  • Personalize it with their name.
  • Hand-sign the letter.
  • Always include a customized reply card (again with the donor’s name) and reply envelope with a live stamp. Make it as easy as possible for the donor to send you a donation now!
  • Ask for a specific amount based on their previous giving, but also include an “open ask” in case they’d like to give less – or more! (An open ask usually looks something like, [ ] Here’s my gift of $_________.)

Big Picture Goal

Your big-picture goal here is to make the letter feel like it was put together just for the donor – not something you produced for everyone.

I know it’s not possible to ask every Major Donor in person each time. So you need to get good at using the mail to make sure they see your ask.

Hopefully, this blog post helps you think through and plan how your direct appeal should look in the mail!

Jim Shapiro

Jim Shapiro is the fundraising coach you always wanted, the proven Sherpa who can help you get to the top of the mountain. He has 20 years experience raising money, including serving as the VP of Development for a $300m nonprofit. He then co-founded The Better Fundraising Co. to help small-to-medium nonprofits raise more money. Jim is married, serves his community by coaching high school football, and has three children.

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