How to Write a Nonprofit Donation Letter ( + Templates)
Nonprofit fundraisers do their best to extract value from various tools and every new social platform. But, can a tweet connect with donors on an emotional level? Maybe. Is TikTok the best way to make potential supporters care about your cause? Questionable.
What’s the single, foundational, inarguable, rock-solid strategy that builds and nurtures your donor relationships and gives your nonprofit brand a chance to shine? The old school, well-written donation letter.
What Is a Donation Letter?
Also called fundraising appeals or fundraising letters, donation letters are written communication tools that seek donations by demonstrating both need and impact. And your first question is probably, “Are we talking about an actual, physical letter?”
The answer is, emphatically, yes, though you will also likely want to send donation letters via email.
With this type of appeal, you can target individuals, businesses, or institutions. Individual donation letters are usually personalized to connect with readers better, while appeals to businesses and institutions emphasize the corporate social responsibility benefits that come with donating.
Why Nonprofits Should Send Donation Letters
Fundraising appeals aren’t just a great way to secure donations. They’re also a fantastic opportunity to get your potential donors thinking about your brand, literally.
Direct mail gives recipients something to hold onto, which makes your request seem more tangible. And as noted by Fundraiser Help, letters can be passed along from person to person, potentially increasing your reach — especially if your letter makes it to a busy office or large family.
If snail mail isn’t an option for your organization, email is a reliable option. For every 1,000 fundraising emails you send, you’ll receive an average donation of $45. And we know all too well how easy it is to send a thousand emails.
In general, donation letters/emails give you enough space to outline your organization’s mission, demonstrate need, highlight the impact of donations, and inspire recipients in a focused, captivating way. From an operational standpoint, they’re relatively quick to put together and send, and they reach your network at a convenient time for everyone.
Speaking of time…
When Should You Send a Donation Letter?
Although sending a letter or email is not nearly as time-sensitive as making a phone call (how dare you call me during dinner?), you can get more bang for your buck by reaching out to donors at specific times of the year.
- Fundraising Campaigns: Be sure to send donation letters before, at the midpoint, and the end of every fundraising campaign. Appeal letters serve as an outstanding primer, update, or recap of your campaigns.
- Holidays: 35% of donations are made in October, November, and December, and 12% are made during the last three days of the year. Knowing this, send fundraising letters during the holiday giving season to encourage your audience’s natural inclination toward philanthropy. Almost 60% of nonprofits make up to three touchpoints with potential supporters during this period, and a donation letter is a great way to tie them all together at the end of the year.
- Anniversaries: When pursuing donations from individuals or businesses with whom you have an existing relationship, send a donation request letter on your relationship’s anniversary, such as the first time they donated, or your organization’s anniversary.
If you’re looking for a quick, reliable way to determine precisely when to send correspondence, how much to ask for, and who is most likely to give, don’t hesitate to check out Keela Intelligence.
Using sophisticated artificial intelligence, Keela helps you get the most from your letter-writing campaign, automatically, using the data that already lives in your CRM. You can also use Keela to easily segment your contacts into different groups to personalize your letters for different audiences. For example, if you know your donors’ faith, you can send letters appropriately timed for each religious holiday throughout the year.
How to Write a Donation Letter?
There’s no avoiding it — eventually, you’re going to have to write a donation letter. But do not despair; it’s not a complicated formula. Let’s look at how to write a letter asking for donations.
Format: The letter should be printed on official letterhead (or email template), branded with your nonprofit’s name, logo, and colors. This is your first opportunity to be recognizable, and thus, trustworthy. Include your organization’s contact information at the top of the letter to facilitate easy replies.
Salutation: For donation letters to individuals, address the donor by name. For letters to corporations, try to determine the most appropriate recipient at the company and address it accordingly. If you can’t identify a single point of contact at the company, address the letter by title, i.e., CEO, President, Head of Human Resources, etc.
Mission: This letter is not just an ask for a single donation; it could also be the first step in the beginning of a long, productive relationship. So take the opportunity to briefly outline your organization’s overall mission, not just the campaign you’re working on at the moment.
Story: There is a lot of room for creativity here but try to follow this framework. Start with a short anecdote that highlights a need and solution. Then, suggest how your donors can be a part of that solution.
Explain your campaign details, including the timeline if applicable. Wherever appropriate, cite statistics to give your story credibility. Try your best to highlight the value of the donor’s role and contribution to your campaign; make them the hero of your story.
Call to Action (CTA): Now that you’ve set the stage, it’s time to make your ask. Your CTA should include a specific suggested donation amount tailored to the recipient. If you are sending your letter via email, include a CTA button.
Thank You: End your letter with a sincere message of gratitude.
Best Practices for Writing A Donation Letter
In addition to the structure outlined above, and in conjunction with our recommended email tactics, there are some strategies you can employ to ensure your letter works as hard for your organization as possible.
Tone: Unless you’re writing to the Royal family or the Sultan of Brunei, a conversational tone is appropriate for most recipients. Formal language can be alienating and feel like a form letter. Writing that leans a little toward casual helps to develop an actual relationship with supporters.
Length: Be concise. Keep your story brief, get to the point quickly, and make your request. The letter shouldn’t be more than a page. This is even more true for email.
Resources: Attach additional information to your letter or provide links in your email for context and to invite readers to learn more.
And now, a sample letter to an individual to get your creative juices flowing:
Smooches for Pooches
1234 Five Street
We hope your tail started wagging when you saw our letter in your mailbox. As a member of the Smooches for Pooches community, you’ve been an integral part of our mission to foster and find fur-ever homes for dogs in search of loving families.
With the recent downturn in the economy, we’ve seen a 30% increase in canine cuddlers entering our system looking for permanent homes. While we locate families ready to add a new four-legged member, we need food, healthcare supplies, toys, towels, bedding, and everything else it takes to get our furry friends ready for their new digs. That’s where you come in.
With your donation today, we can foster, heal, and rehome dogs that might otherwise grow old in a shelter. They’re depending on you to give them the chance to sniff, bark, run, swim, chase, scratch, wag, and lick in a happy home for the rest of their lives.
Your gift of $100 will give hope to our puppy pals who so badly need it.
Thank you for being a part of our story, now and into the future. We appreciate any support you may be able to share with us.
Executive Director, Smooches for Pooches
After You’ve Sent Your Donation Letter
Once you’ve written and sent your letter, there is still one thing left to do: learn to do a better job next time. By tracking response rates to your letter throughout the campaign, you can iterate and improve on your formula next time. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to implement Keela Intelligence to help you prepare for your next round of communications.
By watching which letters do well with your audience, utilizing the AI tools available to you, and following the recommendations outlined above, donation letters are sure to become a valuable tool for your next campaign.
Donation Letter Templates
Use these 8 Donation Letter Templates to inspire donors
and raise more money.