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Swing for the Fences with Your Nonprofit’s Annual Appeal Letter

Baseball fans love opening day. This day holds a new season of possibilities for their favorite team. In fundraising, opening day is the day your nonprofit’s annual appeal letter hits mailboxes.

Like your favorite baseball team, you shouldn’t go into this big day unprepared. In fundraising, ‘spring training’ involves mining data, running segmented donor lists, and writing an effective annual appeal letter.

If you follow baseball, you know that even the best batters in the league sometimes need a little extra support to swing for the fences and knock it out of the park. As a fundraiser, you might need help freshening up your annual appeal for nonprofits. Don’t use the same donation letter year after year or donors may start to notice. Write something fresh and unique that will delight donors and lead them to be the hero of the story.

Consider new fundraising tools, like AskGenius, to help personalize suggested gift amounts for each donor. Fundraisers can learn new strategies to hit home runs for their nonprofit and raise more money through their appeal letters than ever before.

Don’t strike out with donors this spring, follow these tips for a successful annual appeal!

Get the most from your nonprofit’s annual appeal letters with these 5 tips:


1. Start your fundraising letter with your why.

Donors need to know why you do what you do – the why of your nonprofit is more important than the how or the what. Your “why” could be that you want to create a great place for the disadvantaged to live or that you believe every child deserves an opportunity to learn a musical instrument. Whatever your why might be, make it clear by telling a short story. Sharing a real-life experience that supports your why can be a powerful way to engage donors’ attention.

2. Your annual appeal letter should be about the donor.

That’s right – when you’re writing your annual appeal letter, remember your place is on the bench, and the donor is the all-star. In the story that supports your “why” (see step 1), you should make the donor feel like the hero of the story, the one who made it all possible. Be heartfelt in telling the donors that you’re grateful for people like them who are willing to step up and help.

Dr. Russell James, Professor of Charitable Financial Planning at Texas Tech, tells us about the donor hero story and the value fundraising brings to the donor. Make donors feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Dr. James goes on to say that to keep the storytelling simple, we must remember the circular process of “identity, challenge, and victory”.

Set up the story that presents the donor with a challenge, and then help the donor to victory over that challenge…or in this case what their donation makes possible. By leading the donors to victory, and by letting them shine, we are also getting a win for our nonprofit mission.

3. Format your fundraising letter correctly.

As surprising as it might seem, longer fundraising letters perform better if it’s filled with meaningful content. This type of fundraising letter should be 2-4 pages (printing on the front and back is fine to save on material and costs). Consider writing in a 14–16-point font and use an easy-to-read font like Times New Roman. Make sure you’re appeal letter creates a sense of urgency and has a clear call to action.

Your letter should be informal and kept to a readability score of around Grade 7 (check out the Hemmingway App or Grammarly for readability scoring). Johnson boxes and P.S. lines are also part of a winning strategy for fundraising letters – don’t forget to utilize these.

4. Use donor segments for an all-star appeal letter.

Use personalization when writing your nonprofit’s annual appeal letter. Incorporate copy based on donor segments, such as recurring donors, major donors, and first-time donors. Though the bulk of the text will be the same, switch out a paragraph written for each segment. The paragraph could be thanking them for their years of giving, membership in a giving society, or joining your nonprofit family as a first-time donor.

The more you can personalize the letter based on the donor type the more the donor feels special and wants to give again.

5. Personalize the donation amount in the appeal letter response card.

Your fundraising letter’s personalization should spill into the pledge card. By using donors’ historical giving data and other wealth indicators, set suggested gift amounts that are appropriate for each donor. Asking every donor for the same amount or simply setting high, medium, and low amounts won’t knock your appeal out of the park this spring – but customizing ask amounts will. AskGenius is a tool that can help calculate suggested gift amounts for every donor in your database in a simple and easy way.

With these five tips, your annual appeal letter can help you swing for the fences and get a win for your nonprofit all while making your donors feel like heroes! You will delight donors and raise more support than you ever thought possible with your direct mail appeal. With just a few adjustments to your appeal letter, just imagine the good it will do for your nonprofit mission.

If you would like to learn more about how to set personalized ask strings in your nonprofit’s annual appeal letter, request an AskGenius demo today. We can’t wait to help you lead your nonprofit team to victory this spring with the research we know works to raise more money. Sign up for our newsletter to get more content like this delivered to your inbox – like a good coach, we are here for you with years of experience!

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