Donation letters are some of the most effective ways to reach your donors and solicit a gift. However, it’s not enough to simply send the same appeal to your entire supporter base and ask them to donate.
Writing a great donation letter is an opportunity to engage your supporters and show them the impact they have on your mission. By putting thought behind your donation letters, your nonprofit will not only increase your fundraising revenue but also develop relationships with your supporters.
Whether you’re just starting your donation letter strategy or seeking ways to improve it, it’s always a good idea to review the basics and make sure your communication strategies lay a solid foundation for growth.
Ready to start crafting the perfect donation letter to send to supporters?
- Donation Letters: The Basics
- How to Write the Perfect Donation Request Letter
- Best Practices When Writing Donation Letters
- Donation Letter Templates
Donation Letters: The Basics
To review the basics of donation letters and how your nonprofit can best leverage them, take a look at some common questions:
1. What is the purpose of donation letters?
Donation letters are used by many nonprofits to reach prospective donors and entice them to donate. They can be especially effective for mass giving days and other dedicated campaigns. Donation letters can be sent via direct mail or email, depending on your recipients’ preferences. Donation letters are most frequently sent when a nonprofit is asking for financial support, you can also use them to ask for in-kind donations!
2. How often should you send donation letters?
Many fundraising professionals would recommend around four direct mail donation letters per year, with one email per month. However, this number varies depending on both the donor and the nonprofit.
A good idea is to send out a survey asking for communication preferences as soon as someone donates or opts into any of your email lists. Then, record that data within your fundraising platform and refer to it when you schedule future correspondences.
3. To whom do you send donation letters?
As you’re first building out the recipient list for your donation letters, your best bet is to look at your previous donors. They’re already familiar with your organization and your work, meaning they’re more likely to give again. Plus, you can segment your previous donors by how often they engage with your organization and what campaigns they’re most likely to respond to. This allows you to create more specific donation letter templates for different types of donors and keeps you from flooding unresponsive donors’ inboxes.
Donation letters are also a great way to engage supporters who have never given before. For instance, take a look at your database of past volunteers. Even though you know they’ve never given, you also know that they support your mission.
You should also send out donation letters to any businesses that may support your cause. Corporate appeals help your organization get sponsorships and can encourage businesses to create gift matching programs with your nonprofit.
4. How should you send your donation letters?
You can send donation letters by direct mail or email, but most fundraisers use both channels based on their donors’ preferences.
To identify the best way to send letters to your donors, examine your donor data. Your donor data provides you with information on how your donors are most likely to give to your organization. If a donor previously donated online, send your letter via email, but if they gave to your nonprofit offline, send it through direct mail. To learn more about your donors’ communication preferences, send them a survey to learn more about their communication preferences.
5. What types of donation letters are there?
There are many different types of donation letters your organization may need to send out over the years. The most common letters are general donation appeals, thank-you letters, and sponsorship pitches. There are a lot of situations where sending a letter could help your nonprofit increase funding. Create a donation letter specific to your cause or create letters for specific events.
Use a general appeal letter to ask for donations, call for crisis funding, or request items your organization needs. These letters can also be used to recruit volunteers or invite your supporters to a fundraising event. Send a thank-you letter to encourage donors to upgrade their one-time donation to a recurring donation or apply for their employer’s gift matching program while updating them on your campaign’s progress. Letters are also a great way to pitch to local businesses for sponsorships or help convert a mid-level donor into a major donor. Taking advantage of templates and ChatGPT decreases the time it takes for you to reach out to your donors.
How To Write the Perfect Donation Request Letter
To write the perfect donation letter, follow these simple steps:
1. Start with a greeting.
The first thing that your donors look for is a personalized salutation, begin your letters with a nice greeting and include your recipient’s name. Donation letters without a name seem impersonal and are more likely to be ignored. Some studies show that emails including names in the salutation are 26% more likely to be opened, but only 79% of fundraising emails actually use donor names! It’s also important to include your organization’s logo on the letterhead so donors recognize who the letter is from and don’t throw your letter away.
2. Explain your mission.
If the recipient hasn’t heard of your organization before, explain your mission at the beginning. This way, readers get a good understanding of what you’re fighting for and the goals you want to accomplish. One of the best ways to do this is by sharing a story from someone who’s benefited from your organization, and then sharing how your donors helped make a difference in that person’s life. This connects your donors to your mission and shows them the people they’ll help with a gift.
3. Describe your current project/campaign/event.
You’re likely sending out donation letters for a specific reason, whether that’s a project, campaign, or event. Describe that reason clearly and include key details like dates or guidelines. The story at the beginning of your donation letter will reinforce your appeal!
4. Include why this project is in need and what you hope to accomplish.
Don’t forget to explain why it’s important for your donors to support this project in your donation letters. How does it help them make a difference? Why should they give to this program in particular? For instance, if you’re raising money to provide resources to schools around the world, tell your donors the exact school and community their donations will support. Giving a backstory is a great way to connect deeper with your prospective donors.
5. Add photographs or infographics.
Humans are visual creatures and we often make connections to a cause through visualizing it. Include photographs of your impact especially photos featuring people you’ve helped! If your appeal is focused more on data, use infographics that show statistics to make important information easier to understand and bright colors to attract your donors’ attention. If you’re sending your letters via email, include a behind-the-scenes video.
6. Show the tangible impact associated with specific donation amounts.
Donors like knowing exactly where their money is going and how it will help make a difference. Within your donation letter, make a strong ask by describing specifically what their gift will do. For example, stating that a donation of $100 provides a dog with food, shelter, and medicine helps your donors understand their impact. It may also inspire more generosity—they might decide to increase their original $50 donation to $100!
7. Include a clear and direct call to action so readers know how they can give.
Ideally, your donation letter has inspired your donors to make a difference by sending in a gift. Tell them exactly what you want them to do, and then make it easy to act!
8. End your letter by signing your name, including any contact information, and thanking your audience for their future gift.
Anyone who makes a gift to your organization deserves to be thanked sincerely. Even if your donation letters are simply asking for a gift, thanking the recipient for their time and attention shows that you appreciate them taking the time to read your appeal.
Best Practices When Writing Donation Letters
Donation letters and other donor communications are a great way to build important relationships and, in turn, increase your donor retention rates. To be the most effective, your communications must be personable and relevant to the recipient.
To best connect with your donation letter recipients, here are some best practices you can follow:
- Tell a story. As mentioned before, it’s been proven that a captivating story is one of the best ways to connect with your donors. Include a personal story from someone that’s benefited from your programming in your donation letters. Instead of telling your donor what your organization does, show them! This is a compelling way to introduce your mission to those who haven’t heard about your organization before.
- Appeal to your donors’ emotions. Your donors are more likely to connect with your mission if your donation letters appeal to their emotions. Humor or heartwarming stories are both great ways to get your donors to feel good about donating while reading your letter. You can also play on people’s sense of urgency by relaying the need you have for funding. Remember to center your donors with actionable language about what they can do to help. Make your donors the hero of your organization.
- Make sure your letter is easy to read. Your donation letters won’t have the desired effect if they’re unreadable. Choose your font and letter style carefully to guarantee your supporters can easily skim through your letter. Don’t use overly complicated language either. Having to look up what your letter says takes the reader out of the donation mindset.
- Know your audience. You’re going to be sending donation letters to a wide variety of supporters, whether they’re young or old, past donors or new donors, one-time or recurring donors. Your donation letters should reflect those differences by catering to those various donor segments. For instance, a donation letter to someone who previously gave before should include an acknowledgment of that fact as well as the impact of that gift.
- Personalization is key. As mentioned earlier, simply including the recipient’s name in your donation appeals can increase conversion rates. Ensure that your communication tools and donor database are integrated so you can automate this process and easily personalize each donation letter you send out. Include updates on campaigns for former donations they’ve made in your letter to remind your donors how they’ve already helped your organization change the world for the better.
- Be specific. When asking for donations from your supporters, you have to be specific about what you want them to do. Don’t just specify why your organization needs funds during this time— specify how much you want them to give by suggesting exact donation amounts. It’s also helpful to explain why your donors should give now instead of waiting to make a gift. When your recipients understand the appeal’s urgency and have an idea of how much they should give, they’re more likely to donate immediately instead of waiting.
- Track your donation letter data. Each time you send a donation letter, whether by email or direct mail, you should be collecting and storing data about that letter’s performance. Make sure your tools can track important data points like the recipient’s name, whether the recipient responded, and how often your donation letters convert to gifts.
- Pick the perfect time to send it. Send a direct mail donation letter at the beginning of your campaign. You don’t want to risk asking too late. The recipient may not have enough time to make a gift before your campaign ends! On the other hand, sending one too early can have its drawbacks, too. For example, if you’re sending a donation letter asking for gifts to your Giving Tuesday campaign, sending too early may result in the recipient forgetting about the event before it even happens. Carefully consider the perfect time to send donation letters and find that sweet spot between too late and early.
Your donation letters have one primary purpose: to inspire your donors to give. But a great donation letter does more! By following these donation letter best practices, you lay the foundation for future engagement. Sending an engaging, inspiring donation letter gives you the opportunity to get to know your supporters better and build long-lasting relationships.
Donation Letter Templates
To get you started on your donation letter journey, here are some templates for common situations:
General Donation Letter
When sending donation letters, there’s a standard format you can follow or adjust to suit your unique voice and audience. Above all, your donation letters should be personalized to the recipient and effectively explain how their donation will make a difference in the world.
This template is very generic and can be referenced for any type of fundraising effort. Use the template for guidance to ensure you hit the most important points, but feel free to add your own spin to it to better connect with your audience.
Thank You Donation Letter Template
Every donation you receive should be answered with a heartfelt thank-you letter. After all, without the support from your donors, your organization wouldn’t be able to make the meaningful difference it has.
When crafting your thank-you donation letter, feel free to use this template to guide you. This way you know you’re keeping the content personal and effectively showing appreciation to your donor. Remember to include the impact of the gift so that your donors know it was put to good use. Include receipts for your donors’ taxes when sending thank-you letters to take care of both items in one fell swoop.
Donation Letter Template During a Crisis
Writing donation letters during times of crisis and instability may seem like a daunting task. When approaching delicate topics like this, your best bet is to acknowledge it right off the bat and let your donors know you understand their situation. In the end, it’s important to remember that these letters should be donor-centric and focus on connecting your donor to the people they’ll help.
Follow this template for more tips on the important points and details to hit. As always, you can add additional information that’s pertinent to your organization.
Feel free to use any of these donation letter templates to help you with your communication and fundraising needs. Having the resources to effectively reach your donors is the best way to develop relationships and increase fundraising for your organization. Donation letters help you expand your donor base and improve your connection with your current donors. If you’re curious about how to specifically write a school fundraising letter or a matching gift fundraising letter, check out this fundraising letter guide with templates.