The Art of the Year-End Appeal Letter

Posted by Kent Wallace on 12/5/16 5:30 AM

Ok it is year-end, and you must write that dreaded year-end appeal letter again. How and what do I say that I have not already said before? More importantly, how do I say something that is appealing enough to actually get read?

year end donations letter
First: Begin with the End in Mind

Over the years I have used the sentence when writing an appeal letter: "As a result of reading this letter I will...." finish the sentence. In other words, what do you want the reader to do? Being focused on your reader's response will help you be efficient and direct which will lead to a much better response from your audience.

Second: Talk About Your Life Changing Impact

Make it all about whose lives are most changed by the gift. It is very easy to make your year-end appeal about your Christmas list of needs. Tell a story of a life changed as a result of your organizations mission. Skip the laundry list, and appeal through the heart of your cause - that is your most direct and compelling route to a supporter choosing to give.

Three: Pictures = Impact

Capture your story in pictures. We live and work in a visual world more and more each year. Repeat your personal testimony in pictures. Put them on the outside of the envelope compelling the reader to look inside to learn about the image on the outside. Strategically place a few key photographs throughout the letter to keep the reader engaged all the way to the end. Don't scrimp on photography. Take the time and capture great images - they will pay for themselves through the appeal.

year end giving letter

Four: Make Sure It’s Well Written

I am a born speaker but not a born writer. To make my writing as good as it should be I have to really work at it. I have all my work proofed numerous times by trusted colleagues and then edited before published. I always make the final read to make sure I have not lost the integrity of the piece, but I know my limits and I trust my network to help me make my writing as effective as it can be. Delegate important writings to excellent writers. Provide them with an outline or desired message and then let them create.

Five: Ask!

This is an appeal letter, so…

  • Make your final paragraph all about the ask. Make it direct, make it compelling, make it meaningful to the reader.
  • Write about how much the gift allows the giver an opportunity to change a life.
  • Make sure you make it easy for the reader to give. Include a return response card, envelope and postage to make it easy to respond.
  • Make every effort to hand sign personally your top 250 letters. You are asking them to take the time to read about your need, it's worth your time to make it personal.

You're writing an appeal letter, there is no reason to apologize. These are people that have chosen to hear your story, so tell it and ask them directly. If you need help we are here at The Champion Group assisting worthwhile organizations to have a greater mission impact.

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Topics: donors, fundraising, development, growth coaching