To get what you never had, you have to do what you've never done." -Thomas Jefferson
If you are anything like most ministries and non-profits, you don't particularly enjoy writing your donor letters, and we totally get it! We know that it's not so much that you don't like communicating with your supporters, it's more about the weight of communicating effectively, while still keeping things short and sweet! The struggle is real, and we are hoping to take some of the mystery out of effective communication!
~ This is the first installment of a series called Creating Great Donor Letters ~
Before we dive in to the dos and don'ts of letter writing later in this series, we need to address the biggest pitfall of donor writing. When writing a letter to your supporters it's imperative that you choose the type of letter you want to write. I know this sounds elementary, but unfortunately it isn't. There are two types of donor letters - an informative update, and a direct ask. The trick is in learning how to write just one of these, and not allow the temptation to kill two birds with one stone distract from the purpose of the letter.
When we allow every update, every letter, to turn in to a direct ask, we risk making our supporters feel as though we only value them for their financial contributions. Of course this isn't true, our supporters not only provide financial support, but friendship, accountability, encouragement, and prayer. All of which keeps our ministries and organizations running successfully. So, how do we do this? How do we keep our supporters informed, and aware of our needs if we can't address them both in the same letter? Let's dive in!
When planning out a letter you most likely have a game plan in mind. Whether you want to tell your supporters about your newest property updates, or how successful your students were in their last semester of school, or if you need inform them of your significant budget shortfall, you already know when you sit down to write what you need to say. Simply choosing what you want to communicate will immediately make clear what the purpose of the letter will be.
The Informative Letter
This letter will be updating your readers on the happenings around your organization or ministry. Though informational in nature, this letter can include an ask, but it will be presented as an "opportunity." This creates an indirect ask, intended to open a door, without shoving your readers through it. Because our goal with an informative letter is to provide new information, we don't want to cloud the waters by also making a direct ask, thus distracting from the main point of the letter. We can invite our supporters to get involved financially with this intentional wording, while maintaining an informative tone. Here is an example of an indirect ask (or an opportunity to give) -
"Thanks to you, we were able to send 63 children to school this year. Many of these children have never been to school before. Between school uniforms, transportation and school supplies, most of the families here are unable to afford sending any of their children to school at all. We still have the opportunity to send another 15 students to school this year! If you would like to join us in the effort of bringing the gift of education to these children, please click below!"
The above example was deeply informative, revealing the culture of the area being served, and explaining the financial struggles of the parents in the area, while also inviting the reader to make a donation.
The Direct Ask
When presenting a direct ask in a letter, it is acceptable, and even expected, to jump in with two feet. As mentioned above, you don't want to cloud the water by adding extraneous information in to a direct ask. Is your transportation budget sorely lacking, preventing you from buying new tires for your ministry's bus? Do you need to raise $10,000 to prevent your budget from being severely under-budget for the year? Are you $5,000 short of completing your necessary property renovations? Okay then, that's totally manageable. Let's get your supporters informed, and then leave it in God's hands. But do not let yourself add a bunch of other ministry updates to this letter. This weakens your ask, by distracting from the true purpose.
"Thank you for your support of our Ministry. We are currently $10k short of our yearly meeting our yearly budget, which means we have to suspend our meal kitchen until we have recovered the deficit. Would you consider making a one time donation in addition to your monthly giving, to help us reduce this deficit?"
Short and sweet is the name of the direct ask game, friends. The longer your letter, the more distracting anecdotes your throw in, the less urgent your request will seem. Don't allow your urge to show all that is going RIGHT with your organization or ministry sugar coat your ask. That will only prompt the reader to think, "Well, it sounds like they aren't doing so bad after all.." Ah! No! That is one door you do not want to open!
Do you have questions about an informational letter or direct ask? Do you need help proofreading and editing your letter? We are here to help you in ALL of your fundraising needs. Shilo, our Communication Coordinator, is available to assist you with any letter writing needs. Fill out the form below if you would like her assistance, and she will contact you soon!
We've created Launch Pad to help you put a fundraising plan in place, to help you stay organized, and to help hold you accountable.