If your nonprofit is like many that rely on auction items, gift baskets, and prize drawings at your fundraising events, you know it can be tough to find local businesses willing to donate these items. Businesses receive a lot of requests from different groups throughout the year and have a limited number of products they can give to nonprofits for their fundraising events. Because resources are scarce, your request needs to stand out against dozens of others. Having a well-crafted appeal letter for in-kind donations is a must to ensure your organization receives the support it needs. Use the following six tips to gain more support when writing your next in-kind appeal letter.
1. Address the right person
This first step requires a little research, but ensures your letter gets in the right hands. If you’re targeting a specific local business for a donation, figure out who handles the marketing or acts as general manager for the store because they’ll be the most likely contacts for in-kind gift requests. You can go online and search for the holder of the business license, or better yet, visit the store and ask an employee for the name of the person who handles donation requests. Another benefit of going directly to the business for this information? Visiting the store can give you an idea of what to ask for when writing your appeal letter!
2. Use an eye-catching image
The key to a good in-kind appeal letter is grabbing the attention of the reader right away with a great picture. Or, you could strategically use an image to direct the eye to important sections of your letter. Using an image that relates to what your nonprofit does is key to getting eyes on your request (bonus points if the image relates to the local business too!). Using an image as the header of your letter ensures the image is the first thing your readers will typically see. Because you want your letter to stand out, send the letter in color so your image draws attention from letters that only contain black and white text.
3. Introduce your organization
You can’t assume businesses know your nonprofit and what makes you great unless they’ve donated items to your cause before. Tell the business about your nonprofit in your appeal letter. When was your organization founded? What is your mission? What are your major accomplishments? This is also a great place to explain why you’re coming to them for help and how they can support your cause. Introducing your organization doesn’t have to be entirely fact-based. Include a touching story to help highlight the work you do with help from the community.
4. Tell the business how they’ll benefit
A key component that is often forgotten when requesting an in-kind gift from a local business is expressing how they’ll benefit. Businesses need to know if they’ll receive anything for donating an item or gift basket to your nonprofit organization. Sure, the one who approves donation requests gets to feel warm and fuzzy, but how does the business benefit from giving product away? Do they get free event admission? Are they recognized in the program? Will you thank them publicly on social media and at the event? Providing the local business with free, positive publicity makes it easier for the business to choose your request over others.
5. Keep your appeal letter short and simple
Managers tend to keep busy, so long appeal letters are out of the question! Think of your in-kind appeal letter as an elevator pitch. The person who handles donation requests likely receives a ton of them. Because they can’t devote more than a few minutes to each request, keep your appeal letter short, sweet, and to the point. A concise, focused appeal is more likely to be read and approved. A two-page letter with three long paragraphs can be tedious to read, so stick to short, 3-5 sentence paragraphs. Rather than writing everything out, if you want essential information to stand out, try using bullet points where appropriate (this is especially helpful in the benefits section). Or, you can bold important sentences to draw the eye to them (but don’t overdo it).
6. Thank them
Conclude your letter with a sentence that thanks the reader for their consideration of your request. Showing gratitude is a great way to make them feel appreciated and look upon your appeal letter more favorably.
Your in-kind appeal letter can make or break your event fundraising goals. With these six tips you can create an effective letter that makes local businesses want to support your efforts. Still not sure how your in-kind appeal letter should look? Here’s an example: Sample In-Kind Appeal Letter.