5 Tips for Writing Effective Fundraising Holiday Appeal Letters


Every nonprofit is familiar with the end-of-year fundraising solicitation campaign. It is a tried-and-true method of garnering donations, but that does not mean you should stick to a standard template and shy away from being creative. There are a lot of moving parts that go into creating a truly effective and ingenious holiday donation letter.

Fortunately, we have consolidated some of the best practices for crafting an appeal that will really engage your donor base and get them onboard for holiday giving. We will also share some sample fundraising letters that you can use as a template for your own year-end appeal. 

Let’s go!

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What is a Holiday Fundraising Appeal?

The holiday season is a time when donors, in the throes of goodwill toward humanity, are more likely to give generously to their favorite charities. Nonprofits are well aware of this, so the holiday fundraising donation letter has become a staple of the industry. Most organizations send this appeal as a postcard or direct mail letter to their entire donor base. 

Because incentive is high at this time of year, everyone in an organization’s donor pool should be targeted, including major donors, small-scale donors, and past donors. However, the focus is less on getting potential donors on board to donate and more on pushing for more assistance from your group of current supporters. These lapsed donor examples may help you increase your reach. 

As with other types of nonprofit letters like the in-kind donation letter or thank-you letter for donations, an end-of-year donation letter should follow a loose series of regulations to be really effective and impactful. This does not mean you should not personalize these letters, however. To get an idea of how to write a powerful end-of-year fundraising appeal, which you may customize to suit your organization’s unique purpose and style, read on. We have provided some tips and strategies to get your creativity flowing!


Tip #1: Consult Your Donor Database

Whether you are sending traditional letters through the post or email, segmentation of your donor list is essential to propagating the most fruitful donor engagement. You want your appeal to be as specific as possible, so you may have to reach out to a variety of target audiences. You can segment them via whatever criteria makes the most sense to your organization - perhaps by:

  • Gift level (small, mid-size, or major donation)

  • Type of supporter (volunteer, member, donor)

  • Status of donor (prospective, active, lapsed)

  • Location of donor (local, national, international)

  • Motivation of giver (family/friend impacted, works for the cause, educator)

holiday-appeal-letters-fundraising-samples-consult-your-databaseSam is doing some audience segmentation on his donor database!

After you have sent your appeal, follow up on it within a few days, particularly if you are using email. Your recipients’ open and click-through rates can tell you a lot about how inspirational and motivating your letters are - especially, of course, if you secure donations in return. If you are not getting donations from certain people, send a friendly follow-up email. Perhaps try segmenting them differently, and speaking to them through a different angle. 

Pro Tip: While there are pros and cons to both traditional letters and emails, emails do allow for more convenient personalization strategies as well as better (and not to mention quicker) follow-up. You can use an email management software like Springly to create templates for all of the types of letters you want to send, and then actively observe and manage recipient metrics data, after which you can integrate your findings. 


Tip #2: Personalize The Correspondence Itself And Channel of Communication

Your organization likely knows your supporters well. When you are planning your end-of-year donation drive, think about how you can best reach and engage them. Once you have decided just how to segment your recipients, you can formulate your letters to align with the values and inclinations of each population. Also be sure that you use each donor’s first name, and make references to any previous involvement or giving history they have had with your organization - personalization is key. You want your supporters to feel like what they do matters, and that they are an active partner in your mission. 

In addition to personalizing the correspondence itself, you can personalize the channel through which you communicate with each segmented population. That is, in addition to sending an email or physical letter, you can:

Run a Year-End Social Media Appeal. This is typically done in conjunction with other types of campaigns, but it can make a really positive impact on results. Build awareness for your end-of-year giving campaign by creating short-and-sweet appeals with engaging visuals. Then post them on the social media platform that is most used by your supporters, including a link to your donation page. 

Create a Holiday Appeal Video. Visuals are a very effective form of communication, and video has taken off in recent years as one of the best ways to reach younger individuals. Create a promotional video to boost your year-end campaign. It should only be a few minutes long at most (any longer and you could lose a viewer’s attention), lean heavily into storytelling, and really highlight your organization’s great work. Take your finished product and upload it onto your social media accounts, attach it to your fundraising emails and fundraising page, and put it on your nonprofit website. 

Have a Year-End Crowdfunding Event. Crowdfunding is a newer form of donation campaign, but a highly effective one. If your supporters are on the younger side, this may be the best way to get their attention. Create a crowdfunding page with engaging visuals and offer a variety of giving levels. It can also be impactful to show just how their gift will help the mission. For example, express that giving just $25 will save one cat from a kill shelter, and contribute toward matching them with a loving home.

Crowdfunding platforms make the whole process very easy for your donors. With the click of a button your supporters can donate and receive an immediate donation receipt

Hit the Phones. This is on the other end of the scale, but it is just as important in terms of your communication with older donors. Some people prefer to speak to someone directly, and phone calls allow for one-on-one personalization that is unmatched by other channels of communication - because you are able to respond to changing fluctuations in the interests expressed by your interlocutor in real-time. You do not necessarily have to call every donor, but have your most experienced volunteers target those who have not donated yet in response to first or second appeals. 


Tip #3: Celebrate Your Donors

In this same spirit of partnership, when you are writing your appeal, put the focus on the donor while communicating how integral they are to aiding whatever cause your organization aims to further. You want the donor to feel like you care about them. A simple "we are thinking about you" is a good way to make your supporters feel seen.

holiday-appeal-letters-fundraising-samples-celebrate-your-donorsSimon is celebrating his donors' commitments!

Remember that your organization will likely not be the only one making an appeal this time of year. Make sure your card, letter, or email stands out. Spotlight some of the great things that your nonprofit accomplished throughout the year, tell stories, and share images and videos that detail all of the progress your charity has made. 


Tip #4: Use A Year-End Matching Gift Appeal

The end-of-year holiday season is a great time for your organization to implement and amplify a matching gifts program. This allows businesses to double employee contributions made to eligible nonprofits. 

There are a couple of ways you can encourage your supporters to take advantage of this program. First, you can add an appeal to your donation page. This can be linked to a gift database search tool so that when they click on the appeal they can easily find the information they need to apply. You may also send matching gift information in your donor thank-you letters or emails. Let them know that by filling out a little paperwork, they can double the impact of their gift. 

Pro Tip: This is another way that CRM can help streamline the donation process. If you have your donor’s employer as a metric in your donor database, it is simple to send them relevant information about the process and paperwork that pertains to their employer match program. 


Tip #5: Avoid Jargon 

Finally, when it is time to craft your appeal letter, email, or website, avoid using jargon or cliched sales language. You want your holiday appeal letters to speak to the heart, and to draw in the reader. As mentioned earlier, a donor should feel like a trusted partner in the mission, not like a customer. 

Have a staff member or volunteer who is gifted with language draft a sample and then pass it around the fundraising team for beta reading. Look for any phrases that are off-putting or overly cheesy.

Pro Tip: While you want to avoid salesy language, the tone of your appeal can vary greatly depending on your donor base. Silly and humorous, casual, or impassioned - all of these styles can be effective. The important thing is to understand what kind of language will fly with your audience. 


Sample Year-End Fundraising Appeal Letters

So that you do not have to start from scratch, here are some holiday appeal letters fundraising samples that you can use as a template or a jumping off point for your own compositions. 

Sample #1: 

Dear (Donor name)

This holiday season we are so excited to share that your contribution from our last campaign helped save 3 amazing dogs, including this little lovebug we named Randy! (add photo or video here). 

At Midtown Animal Rescue, we love our dogs and we love our supporters. With your help, we have been able to save over 500 of them this year alone from kill shelters. That is why we are asking for your help again. Every little bit makes a difference! 

  • $25 will save one dog

  • $50 will save 3 dogs 

  • $100 will save 6 dogs

A dog saved is a dog housed in our no-kill shelter or in a foster home until they are adopted. Our dogs are typically adopted only 3 weeks after being rescued, thanks to our active Midtown Animal Rescue adoption page and the loving community that surrounds us. 

Because we are so grateful to you, we want to give you a little holiday gift for your contribution. Donors of $25 or more will receive one of our popular "Midtown Loves Doggos" bumper stickers. Donors of $50 or more will receive a coveted Doggo mug. Donors of $100 or more will receive both items, as well an entrance into our Holiday Raffle. The winner will get an all expense paid night out that includes dinner for 2 at Inn Season, a fabulous local restaurant, and 2 tickets to Markham Theater. 

We are so thankful for you, and hope you have a joyous holiday season!

Your fellow dog lovers at MAR

Sample #2:

Dear (Donor Name),

Did you know that at Sunrise Adaptive Riding Camp, we recently added a new therapy room for our clients? Opening on January 15, it will feature swings for vestibular regulation, a mat table for ROM exercises, and many tools for fine and gross motor manipulation. Here are some before and after photos so you can see just where your kids will be completing their supplemental therapy sessions before they ride!


We are so excited about how much we have been growing, and we know just how much of that we owe to you. Your contributions are why we continue to be the number one riding camp for children and young adults with disabilities. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for continuing to support our mission so we can help our kids "Ride Forward"!

Thank you so much and Happy Holidays!

P.S. Our goal for the upcoming year is to enlarge the riding ring, so we have room for 2 more riders each session. We have so many people excited to ride, and we want to make space for each and every one of them! We have the plans, but we need the funds. Will you help us to make this vision a reality? Join in our journey toward greater accommodation with a *tax-deductible gift ←—(add link to your fundraising page to the final sentence)

*Note: 501c3 donation rules stipulate that you may not offer a tax-deduction for donation unless you are a recognized 501c3 organization.

Sample #3:

Dear (Donor Name),

It has been a great year for the endangered Blue Horned Love Bug, and it is all thanks to you! Your donations last year helped us create 3 large new habitats for these important insects. Breeding levels were up for the first time in 5 years, and they continue to rise in a way that could take the Blue Horned Love Bug off the endangered list within just 2 years!

But we need your help to keep them safe, and keep them growing in numbers. Our goal for the upcoming year is to open up the first Blue Horned Love Bug sanctuary, a 6.8 acre stretch of woodland that will be a safe and pleasant breeding ground for our beautiful insects. We are only $5,000 away from our goal, and you can help get us there!

  • Donate $15 and get a free "Honk if you Love Blue Horned Love Bugs!" bumper sticker

  • Donate $30 and get a free informational book on the BHLB

  • Donate $75 and get a free "Ask Me About Blue Horned Love Bugs" t shirt

Thank you so much for being our valued partner in the fight against the decimation of the Blue Horned Love Bug. You continue to make a difference in the delicate balance of our ecosystem by supporting our littlest guys!

Have a very happy holiday,

Your Bug Loving Friends at the BHLB Society


Final Thoughts 

Requesting donations during the holiday season can be a very successful means of acquiring funds, but bear in mind it is also very competitive. For this reason, take the time to ensure that your holiday appeal fundraising letter is visually appealing, and that your donation request is accompanied by a good story and great deal of gratitude. 

Your year-end fundraising drive is so important. Be open and genuine with your donors. Thank them for all of their support in the previous year, while sharing what they can do to help now. If you follow the strategies laid out in this guide, you should be well on your way to drafting an appeal that will make your nonprofit shine in the new year. 

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💡How do I ask for donations for the holidays?

There are a number of ways you can ask for holiday donations, although the most popular tend to be an annual holiday appeal either through traditional mailers or emails. In today’s world, it’s best to utilize several channels of communication to ensure that none of your donors fall through the cracks. Social media is a great way to get the word out about a holiday appeal. Find out more. 

🔑 How do you write a holiday appeal?

Make it personal. Share some exciting news about what your organization is doing, but make sure that you credit your donor with helping the mission through their support. It’s also a good idea to add several tiers of giving with specific information about how the money will be used. Find out more. 

📝 How do I write a letter of appeal for a fundraiser?

Take a little time to research the basic form. There are plenty of samples you can find online to give you an idea of how to shape the letter. But the most important part is to personalize the letter to the donor. With data management systems, you should be able to segment your donors and create slightly different letters for each group. Let them know just what you need, and make sure to share your gratitude for their continued support. Find out more.  

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