What Matters Most
The lead paragraph of the letter is the next place you should announce your reason for writing. “I’m writing to give you an update on our 2006 Photography Expansion Fund.” Briefly explain the fund, why it’s important to the member and how it satisfies the member’s desire for involvement with the museum.
2. Next, ask and proclaim. Tell the donor what action you want her to take; get specific with your ask language. This is your first full proclamation of the fundraising offer. Use stories, facts and other details to buttress your need. Remember, above all else, people give to help people. Explain your need emotionally.
3. Give instructions. Tell the donor exactly how to respond. Get very specific and detailed. “Mail your check today, along with the special Photography Expansion Fund reply coupon, in the envelope provided.” Or, “Go to our special Photography Expansion Fund Web site and make your gift via credit card.” (Be certain to set up a dedicated Web site — with a look and feel to match your mail package — that can track responses triggered by the printed mail appeal.)
4. Then, ask and proclaim again. Repeat your fundraising offer and proclaim your need. Cite new reasons why the donor’s gift is important to achieving the project’s goals. Give a deadline for response so the donor has a reason to act right away.
5. Finally, repeat your instructions. Tell donors, yet again, specifically how to respond to your appeal.
Headlines, postscripts and other attention-grabbing elements can make or break an appeal package. Use subheads throughout your letter to pull the reader through. Your postscript should be no more than two sentences long and should provide an urgent restatement of your entire case for support. u
Timothy Burgess is co-founder and senior strategist at direct-response fundraising firm Merkle/Domain. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.