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donation-letter

The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Donation Request Letter (+ Examples)

Nina

Operating your organization with a great deal of passion certainly leads you to seek new and creative ways to share ideas. When it comes to fundraising for nonprofits, there are many tried-and-true methods of expanding public awareness around your campaigns. Today, we will explore donation letter basics and offer some tips to use them effectively. As an added bonus, we link theory to reality by showing a few real world examples to drive the point home and show you what "good" looks like! 

Let’s go!

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What is a Donation Letter?

A donation letter is sent out by a nonprofit to previous or prospective supporters. The note asks for a specific donation for a cause, a certain campaign, or a big project. Maybe the letter is sent as a standalone mailer or perhaps it is included as a part of a welcome pack for subscribers. Either way, having a draft on standby is ideal. Even if your attempt does not result in a donation, you may still generate valuable awareness around your organization. 

Requesting donations is one of the most common ways to acquire resources. A classic donation letter contains a summary of your story, your core messages, and how you are addressing the issues you face. Why do you need the help of donations? What does the money go towards? Who else is in your network? A donation letter is your opportunity to answer these questions, and call upon the recipient to help. 

donation-letter-what-isEmily is ready to take some notes on donation request letters!

A donation letter usually is clearly branded by the organization and includes a direct call-to-action (CTA). Do not be afraid to inspire a little urgency, especially in the presence of actual deadlines. 

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Why Send a Donation Letter?

People may already want to donate as it feels good to help! A feeling of civic duty is not uncommon, and people understand that they can write donations off on taxes. They just do not know where to donate to, how to do it, or how much is the right amount. Life can be busy, and there is no opportunity to seek out ways to give back. They might just need a little nudge, and that is where your letter comes in! 

Donation letters are generally well received, especially by older generations. If your target audience is of an older generation, this technique is particularly helpful. These letters allow you to connect with people you may not find through online channels to provide them important information about your cause and, ideally, compel them to take action. 

A letter is a wonderful opportunity to tell a piece of your story with emotion, make readers aware of your financial needs, and what you will be accomplishing with their generous help. All in all, It is a great thing to have in your arsenal of tactics, and It is one of the best fundraising ideas.

Pro Tip: Focusing on donation letters alone will not be effective. However, when they are paired with a comprehensive digital strategy, they act as a perfect complement to your online efforts.

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When to Use Donation Letters?

Donation letters are most effective when sent inline with your campaigns in order to impact the corresponding goal points. Donation letters can create a quick pour-in of support, so they are always worth a try in the presence of deadlines and important dates.

If you are looking for a golden opportunity, try to time them for the end of the year when donors are preparing for the upcoming tax season. Their finances are fresh in their minds as tax returns are due in just a few short months. Holiday fundraisers can be extremely powerful for this reason, in addition to the giving spirit of the holiday season. Any holiday that is widely celebrated is a good time to send a round of letters, especially if your causes align with the holiday in question. 

Also, spring is a reasonable timeframe for outreach. Supporters typically receive their tax refunds in early spring. Asking for money when abundance is afloat is always easier than when things are simply steadily flowing!

Finally, there are individual events that offer a perfect opportunity for particular nonprofits to reach out to existing and prospective supporters. For example, Earth day is a great time for organizations who work to protect nature to send donation letters. 

Pro Tip: Giving Tuesday is the largest fundraising day for many nonprofits, therefore it is a great time to send out donation letters. The event occurs just before the holiday season. As you plan for the upcoming season, your team should choose which event/ theme to focus on i.e., Giving Tuesday 2022 or the winter holidays. If you send a Giving Tuesday letter and then immediately reach out regarding a holiday-related campaign, that can strain your organization’s team and may be seen as overly aggressive to donors. 

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How to Structure Your Donation Letter

Ready to create your very own donation letter? Great! Let’s break it down step by step so you can create the perfect donation letter for your organization. This way, we can really build an understanding about the structure of a great donation letter. In addition, we have added an example of each section in action using a donation letter that arrived at one of our staff member’s homes earlier this year from the American Heart Association.

donation-letter-how-to-structureSadie is almost ready to send off her first donation request letter!

Greeting

Start your fundraising letter with a personal salutation, just as you would for any other letter. If you are sending it to a specifically chosen person or organization, address your readers by name. If it will be used in a variety of situations, keep it general. 

Pro Tip: There is software to help personalize your letters, even those that will be sent as physical mail, as much as possible. Avoid using "To Whom it may concern" or "Dear Donor" or any other general greeting. The more personalized your letter, the better.

 

Organization Background

Following your greeting, begin your first paragraph. You want to take this time to outline your organization, your mission, and what you believe in. This is your opportunity to really tell the recipients, especially those who are new potential supporters, what you are working towards. 

Campaign Overview

Next, you might like to create a new paragraph that outlines the general concept of the campaign or project you are requesting donations for. Give the reader an idea of what is going on in your organization, and what their money will be directly supporting. For example, if your organization is working to support neighborhood children to succeed in school, ensure you explain the details e.g., the program will identify children in need within ___ county and support them by providing all necessary back to school supplies. 

Campaign Specifics

In your next paragraph, dive into further details about the fundraising campaign or project. Tell them more about the actual processes, the individuals doing the work, and specifically what their money will accomplish. It helps to be concise here while also providing clear, concrete data points that will provide transparency on where the money is going e.g., $100 provides 3 backpacks full of school supplies. 

Call to Action

In your closing paragraph, describe the specific action you want the donor to take i.e., what is the specific request and dollar amount. Detail an amount that the letter is requesting. If you have a hard time deciding on a number, factor in who the letter is going to, and what the project is. Consider how high your goals are, and think in comparison to the amount of time there is to meet them.  

Create a CTA and clear guidelines about how to respond to your donation letter. If the donation will support a particular initiative that has a specific timeline, include information around the timing requirements. For example, Change lives by donating $100 today! 

Closing

Feel free to use commonly employed slogans or catchphrases, and plug in a closing sentence. Thank recipients for reading, and create a signature with your organization's name, in addition to your own. 

Pro Tip: Requesting money from someone is not the easiest thing to do. However, the more specific you are with your request, the less likely they are to confuse your demand. If they know exactly what you need, and they know exactly what steps to follow in order to get there, you can reach your goals much faster. 

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The 6 Types of Donation Request Letter

Donation letters can be utilized to reach out to various groups of people. Let’s take a look at 6 types of donation letters campaigns. 

Individual Donation

This form of letter is sent to individual households in a certain area. People will receive it like regular mail, and suddenly, they will know about an organization they may have otherwise had no idea about. This option is great if you have a community-based project, as people will be glad to support their neighbors. In any situation, it has a wide reach, and it can be very impactful when done properly.

Be sure to include a return letter inside the envelope, decorated already with your organization’s address or P.O. box. This will allow people to pull their checkbook out and directly respond to your message, conveniently adding into their daily outgoing mail. Making it easy for donors is one of the best ways to ensure your donation letter is effective. 

Corporate Donation

These are sent to businesses to ask for things such as event sponsorships or annual donations. You may ask the company to match all of the donations that are issued on a certain date to create a promotional event, or just ask them to contribute a themed basket for a raffle. 

Pro Tip: Not only is adding a personal but professional touch a good idea for Corporate Donation letters, ensure you call your corporate contacts to follow up about a week after the letter would have arrived. 

It might be helpful to seek out companies that have a history of sustaining positive rapport with nonprofits. That way, you know that their HR departments are capable of handling your request. There may even be a way to arrange for a company-wide fundraising event for the entire staff, even if the company itself cannot make a donation. Be sure to stay open to the possibilities, and keep an open line of communication. 

Online Fundraising

This type of letter will be tailored to the virtual donor, and it will more than likely be sent online. It may be delivered via email or direct message, and you may even be able to track their open rates (more on that later!). Your approach to this method will have to be much different from the others, since people tend to spend far less time reading online content. 

To stay effective, keep things short and snappy, and utilize an attractive design. Create clear and concise CTAs that lead to the collection pages for online donations, and present clickable options for donation amounts. 

These can also serve as simple online ads for social media, shared as a photo and circulated through communities. You can decorate them with GIFs, stickers, and eye-catching fonts for the text, while using as few words as possible. At the same time, be sure not to go overboard and lose your authority. This keeps people interested long enough to get the most important information. 

Pledge Campaigns

For highly specific fundraisers that are dedicated to one simple goal or purpose, you may use a pledge campaign. This is when supporters do not issue the contribution at that very moment, and instead, they pledge to donate over a set amount of time. The specific details are determined, such as the total donation amount and the amount of time for the pledge to be completed. 

Since pledge campaigns are usually spread out over time, people may be inclined to donate a larger sum and give it to you in separate chunks. Always be sure to follow up on your pledges, which is best practice regardless of the target audience. Communicate directly with donors after a pledge is made, and set up a schedule for reminding the donor about the pledge. 

Volunteers

Donations are not always monetary. Sometimes, we donate our time. When you need some help with an event, or even in a storefront location, you might send out a round of letters for the purpose of requesting volunteers. Send them to individuals who are local to the area you will need help, and get involved with the online communities in those areas, too. The more you can publicize the letter, the more likely you are to inspire enough people to be there when you need them.  

donation-letter-six-typesSam is typing up a donation request letter now!

Be sure to tell people if there is a dress code, if lunches will be provided, and the exact times and dates that you will need them. Also detail any physical work that they may be asked to do, such as stand outside in the warm sun for a certain amount of time. The more information they have to work with, the more confidently they are able to approve or deny your request. 

Auction Invitations

Charity auctions can be live, online, or silent, and they are a timeless way to collect funds. Many nonprofits acquire the prizes through their networks as donations, and they organize the auction to generate additional supporters and brand awareness. For a good auction invitation, be sure to outline the items available and the starting bid numbers, if there is a minimum. 

With an understanding of your target audience, you can ensure that the items are tailored to their desires. Additional research is almost always a good idea when it comes to your marketing tactics. Look online for some data on what kinds of packages, destinations, or memberships that supporters would be grateful to win. This will help you bring as much value to the auction as you can. 

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns

This strategy allows people to raise money on behalf of your organization. This gives you the ability to tap into the social circles of your existing members in a new way, which could create a lot more regular members of your organization. You may choose to send out a round of letters with instructions on how to navigate to the right place on your website or, even better, a QR code to a personalized fundraising page. This can give people everything they need to spread awareness and gather funds for your causes.  

The beauty of these campaigns is that they happen on their own. People who feel passionate about your cause are likely to speak about it casually, whether they are in their homes or in a group setting. Now, they are essentially able to collect funds for you, with the links you give them to online accounts. It increases your reach, it secures extra funds, and it gets people pumped about the moves you are making in the community. 

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Best Practices

Once you have your audience in mind, and have structured your letter, consider instituting the following best practices. 

Tracking Data

Remember when we mentioned those open rates for your online fundraising letters? This is one important feature of tracking your engagement data. If you do not know how your information is being received, you do not know what to do more of. When you spend time and resources on a marketing campaign, you have to know where the resources are yielding the highest rewards. Tracking your engagement data is one powerful way to achieve this. If you use a fundraising software, see if this is an included feature. 

Encourage Recurring Donations

Another important factor is the encouragement of recurring donations. Including this in your letter can not only plant a seed for the idea, but including the option directly into the form (whether online or on paper) offers a way for the people on your mailing list who regularly make donations to do so in an easier way. When they make it automatic, you never miss a donation, and they do not need to remember to take a specific action. Of course, you will need the permission from the donor to store their credit card information in your files, but the process should be easy and streamlined on your website or on your paper form. 

Make it Emotional

Your letter is also an easy way to tell your story to a wide pool of viewers. People probably already feel passionate about your cause, you just have to remind them of it, and assure them that you are on the front lines. Play on the emotional aspects of your organization’s impact and mission, and further convince the viewer that donating is a worthy ideal. After all, it is! 

Send a Thank You

Always send thank you notes for immediate responses and/or large donations or corporate matches. If there is no acknowledgement after such a huge commitment, major donors may never know whether their gift was received, which is a concern for donors and may keep them from working with you again. If you have friendly rapport, it could encourage a repeat situation, and it fosters great connections amongst the people you work with. 

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Real-life Examples

Let’s take a look at some specific examples from a few nonprofits that we already know. Having an idea of what works on the grand scale can help you to make these decisions with an air of confidence. Take a look: 

1) WWF

This letter is clear about what is happening, it creates urgency, and it has clear information about what the intentions behind sharing are: help to save the red panda. It has a clear website location towards the top to direct people to online donations sections, with the additional CTA about purchasing the raffle tickets. The colors are synchronized with the red panda, and luckily, that color choice is great for inspiring action. 

 

2) The International Rescue Committee

For a more current example, here is one from rescue.org. It makes the information clear and simple: people need food, and some people need new homes. Gathering signatures for petitions is an incredibly valuable way to gather support for your causes, and the CTA is listed clearly in bright orange. To donate, visit their site. They often match donations for holidays or special events. 

3) Catholic Relief Services

Looking for an example of how to effectuate those helpful recurring donations? Here is an example from Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Your physical or online donation letter may refer the recipient to an online form like the one CRS created, allow the donor to reply via physical mail or, ideally, give them both options to choose from. Either way, CRS offers an example of how to succinctly relay the benefit to the community while requesting all the pertinent details.

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Final Thoughts

As we have established, a well-made donation letter is a wonderful way to connect with your audience directly about your projects. Your cause is important to you, and it is important to the communities you work with. This old fashioned method of contribution collection is tried and true, and hopefully, you can craft your donation letter with confidence after reading this. 

As there are 6 main styles of donation letters, there is likely a perfect option for whatever is happening in your organization. Whether you are seeking volunteers for an event or a specific amount from a wide pool of people, donation letters serve as an awesome way to achieve your goals. 

Maybe you are seeking signatures for petitions, monetary contributions, or volunteers for events. Generating traction for your causes is easier with numerous methods at your disposal, and donation letters are a powerful one. 

Ultimately, it is ideal to have reliable and consistent methods of connecting with your community. The ways you gather funds for your projects should be near constant and varied. Several methods of fundraising lead to larger streams of income, and donation letters can seamlessly become another method for donor retention. Be sure to say thank you to major donors, and foster healthy partnerships. 

For best results, use all the tips you can to create your community engagement statuses. With good intentions, and clear communication, you simply cannot go wrong! 

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FAQ

💡How do I write a donation letter?

Notify your reader of who you are, what you stand for, and what issues you are rallying for. Provide specific information as to what the donation request is for, with evidence of your past effect on the community. Ask them for a specific amount, and time it with the holidays if you can. Find out more. 

🔑 What should a donation letter say?

It should clearly state your brand identity, mission, and values. It should also request an exact amount to be paid, and what the donation will fund. Clear directions for payment and contact information should also be listed. Find out more. 

📝 How do you politely ask for donations?

Politely asking for donations is all about clarity and honesty. People may already want to donate money, as they know it will be tax deductible. Be specific, and tell them the most important info about your cause. Find out more.  

 

 

 

 

 

Fundraising
Nina