How to Write a Compelling Annual Fund Solicitation Letter (That Stands Out in the Mail!)

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Katie Roth Mylenbusch is a fundraising consultant and the mind behind KRM Fundraising Solutions. She’s an expert in many disciplines, including strategic planning, major gifts fundraising, capital campaigns, and more. You might remember her from our Chicago Client Workshop — she’s a ton of fun! If you want more content from Katie, keep an eye on her blog.

We’ve all heard it…. “the letter needs to stand out, be creative, inspire people to give!”

…Well that’s great and definitely what we all want to accomplish, but how?!?

Don’t worry – you don’t need to have a Don Draper “Mad Men” epiphany to write a high-quality solicitation letter.

​So here is my process….(I recommend using a new Word doc, email, or piece of paper for Steps 1 – 4)

Step 1 – Write, write, and write…

Write what you love about the organization. Spend 5-15 minutes or so to do this.

Step 2 – Write what others love about your organization. 

Spend another 5-15 minutes or so to do this.

Step 3 – Make a list of key recent accomplishments at the organization.

Spend no more than 3-5 minutes. This list will probably only be about 5 items or so.

Step 4 – Make a list of unique points of difference (what makes your organization unique, special, different than other organizations).

Spend no more than 3-5 minutes. This list will probably include no more than 10 items.

Step 5 – Print the documents you used for steps 1-5 and compare them to finds trends. 

I will often highlight key words, stats, facts, examples, stories, etc. from the documents. I will type these up into their own document. I sit with the list for a day or two before revisiting it. When I revisit it, I look at it again with fresh eyes to see if the list still makes sense to me. If I’m not happy with the results and think there’s something missing, then I will repeat one of the above steps or directly add it to the list.

**Test** – this step can be done before Step 1 or after Step 5 and will also be repeated later on in the process.

This is when you look at past results (email, phone, mail, social media, etc.) and determine the most popular themes, topics, stories, formats, layouts, etc. from past pieces. If you do this after step 5, this should give you a moment to see if your thoughts matches what you’re seeing in the trends. If the trends do not match your plan, then consider how you should incorporate the trends in this solicitation or use in another solicitation. Some of those trends/story lines may have run their course and don’t need to be incorporated again at all. Trust your gut reaction!

Step 6 and Step 7 (the order of these two steps can be switched or done together) – Determine the “feel” of the solicitation. 

During this step ask yourself what is the “feel” of the solicitation? People respond to letters that appeal to their emotion, reason, or logic with emotion being the biggest draw. What type of appeal is it? Do you pull at the heartstrings with an emotional story? How do you tell the story? Who is the signer? How does the “feel” compliment the rest of the appeals and communication pieces for the year?

Step 7 – Determine the “look” of the solicitation. 

What is the format of the appeal? Is it a letter or a brochure? How does the story unfold? Is there a teaser on the envelope? What is compelling to get them to open it? Does it look different than other appeals? Does the paper and colors match the “feel” of the appeal? How does the “look” compliment the rest of the appeals and communication pieces?

**Test** – How does the “look” and “feel” fit with your data trends? 

Remember that it’s great to take risks, but you need data to support those risks.

Step 8 – Begin to put it together and move it to the production stage.

There you have it! An easy way to get the creative juices flowing and a solid solicitation strategy in place.

This post originally appeared on the KRM Fundraising Solutions Blog and was posted with Katie’s permission. We love the work that Katie is doing, and we love sharing valuable how-to information with our clients — it’s a win/win! If you want to learn more about Katie or check out more of her content, visit the KRM Fundraising Solutions website

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