Dos & Don’ts of An Effective Fundraising Letter
Joe Micon was the Executive Director of Lafayette Urban Ministry for 30 years. During that time he wrote almost 180 fundraising letters, netting close to $35 million for LUM.
For Joe, writing a good fundraising letter is an inherently creative process, one that cannot be rushed. He begins mulling over ideas for the letter several weeks in advance, and when it comes time to put pen to paper he makes sure to give himself at least two to three days to compose and edit the letter before distributing it to a few trusted individuals for critical feedback.
Here are a few of the main fundraising letter Dos and Don’ts that Joe has compiled over the years.
- As an executive director, you have to get comfortable with the fact that YOU are responsible for raising the money. Because people don’t give to a good cause, they give to people with a good cause – people they trust and respect. If you look at all the most successful national nonprofits, you’ll probably think first of an individual person you’re attracted to, like Jimmy Carter for Habitat or Morris Dees for the Southern Poverty Law Center. As an executive director you are the face people associate with your agency – and it’s your voice that comes across when they read your letter. So even if you get help in writing the letter, YOU should always be the ONLY one to sign it.
- It’s vital to know how to tell individual stories. Statistics are great, but ultimately people respond best to a heartwarming individual story.
- Keep paragraphs short and concise.
- Know who responds to a six page letter and who responds to a three sentence text, because both can be effective.
- Don’t forget to put a PS at the bottom of each letter. The average fundraising letter has 1.3 seconds of life. If the donor opens it, they’ll read the first sentence and then turn it over and look at the PS. If those draw them in, they are far more likely to keep reading and to give.
- Don’t forget to actually ask for specific dollar amounts. If you don’t ask for something specific, people will be far less likely to give.