How to write a letter asking for donations from investors and random people? Growing your non-profit requires capital—both human and financial. If you want to expand your reach and help more people, you are going to have to reach out to your donors for help. Understanding how to craft an appeal letter is one of the most important skills that you will learn as a non-profit fundraiser.

person writing a donation letter

How to Write a Letter Asking for Donations in 5 Steps

1. Know Your Audience

The most important thing that you should know before writing your appeal letter is who your audience will be. Different letters appeal to different donors, and writing your letter directly to your donor is the best way to get the donations you are seeking. Search your database to generate the best possible list of donors based on their giving history, location or key demographics.

When you know your audience, you can tailor the letter directly to them. This is the point where you drill down into your database and create the best, most detailed list you can. If your typical donor is 40-50 years old and lives in Indiana, start there. Expand by including donors who give regularly or who are active in other ways. Seek out donors who have given in the past but have not made a gift this year. If you are considering how to write a letter asking for donations, this is the most important element.

When you have complete data on your donors, you can also conduct testing to decide which letters work best. Send one letter to your current donors and another to potential donors. Send yet another letter to people who have donated to similar organizations but not to yours. This will allow you to understand what audiences are most likely to give to your campaign.

2. Tell Your Story

One of the most compelling ways to reach your donor is to tell a story that resonates with them. If you are running an animal shelter, share a story of a pet that you rescued and later found a home for. When you think about how to write a letter asking for donations, feature a child that you have helped, or tell the story of volunteers who have made your organization great. Telling your story is an effective way to engage your current donors and to attract new donors. Perhaps your organization started with just a few people and now it has grown to include several hundred. Perhaps your staff will be traveling to a foreign country to give much needed help to a poor community.

Stories appeal to emotion, and emotions drive people to action. They are also a good way to explain exactly how you will use the donation. People enjoy knowing exactly where their money is going when they donate, so be sure to tell great stories when you are crafting your donor appeal.

3. Use Statistics to Tell a Story

Did your cause help 50% more people this year than it did last year? Are you planning to increase your services to four more communities next year? Include this in your letter when considering how to write a letter asking for donations. Your donors want to see the numbers. They want to know how their donation will be spent. Numerous studies have shown that organizations that include statistics in their appeals generate more donations than those that don’t.

Useful statistics to include are the percentage of people that your organization helped this year versus last year, the amount of money it takes to help one person or statistics about the communities you serve. Select one or two stats that jump out and will grab your donor’s attention.

It is important, however, to not overdo it with statistics. While donors want to see how the funds will be used, they don’t want to read a document that seems clinical or impersonal. Simply select a few and craft your letter around them.

4. Don’t Forget to Ask

This is the most important part of your appeal letter. It is also the part where many organizations drop the ball. You have to ask your donors to give to your organization. Sounds obvious, right? Many organizations will craft an amazing letter that tells a compelling story, is tailored to the donor and includes images or statistics—and end the letter without a direct ask. Your donors need to take action. And that action is giving money to your organization. If you’re asking how to write a letter asking for donations, remember that the ask is important.

The call to action must be clear. Ask your donors to give $200 to sponsor one family in need. Or ask them to give a monthly recurring gift of $10 so that you can continue your programming. If they have donated in the past, thank them for their past gift and ask them to increase it this year.

Create a sense of urgency to spur them to act. Tell them that you need $50,000 by February 1 in order to secure materials for your fall backpack drive. Tell them that the matching gift program only last for two weeks. Tell them that time is running out to make their end of the year gift. The key here is to convey a sense of urgency when considering how to write a letter asking for donations. Get them to act quickly.

A few common phrases include:

  • “We need your help…”
  • “We desperately need your help to…”
  • “Please join us in delivering 100 meals this year by making your contribution…”
  • “Our work can’t continue without your help…”

Use words like hurry, last chance, urgent, emergency and crisis to drive home a sense of urgency and to get your donors to act now.

5. Make it Personal

Don’t address your letter “Dear Friend,” or “Dear Donor.” Use your donor’s name and make the letter about them. Use their nickname as the salutation if that’s their preferred name. Include personal details that show that you know who they are and what their concerns are. This is easier said than done, but most smaller organizations can pull this off flawlessly. If they donated in the past, mention their past gift. Include a real signature, or at least one that looks real. Talk directly to your donor, as though you were having a personal conversation.

letters on table with pen and leaves

PS: Adding a “P.S.” at the end makes the letter even more personalized, and gives your donor a final takeaway that may spur them to donate. When thinking about how to write a letter asking for donations, including these five elements will help to craft a letter that works.

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