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Donation Letters: Raise More Funds By Thinking Like Your Donors


May 18, 2018 by 8aL3Vw

By Alan Sharpe

One of the shortcomings of direct mail fundraising is that donors are usually thought of as numbers and not as people. Each donor or member in the database has a unique donor number that identifies that individual. You and I are tempted to examine each donors giving history in terms of frequency, recency and monetary value, all measured with numbers (years, months and money).

We then lump donors in categories and give them impersonal labelssuspect, prospect, major donor, lapsed donor, lybunt (a donor who gave last year but unfortunately not this year).

So the temptation when raising funds with appeal letters is to think of donors in terms of what they can do for the organization monetarily. To think of them as numbers. And yet donors who feel treated this way will not remain your donors for long. Todays donors give to charitable organizations for specific reasons, not simply because they have money to give.

The secret to building long-term, profitable, mutually beneficial relationships with donors is to think the way donors think.

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Donors give for dozens of reasons. Some of them rational. Some of them irrational. But behind most decisions to support a worthy cause with a financial gift is a classic motivator. Once you understand what motivates donors to give, you are in a better position to ask them in the right way for the right amount at the right time for the right cause.

Here are three of the main reasons that donors respond to direct mail appeals:

You thanked the donor for the last gift

There are two times to thank donors. One is immediately after you receive their gift. You thank them by mailing a gift acknowledgement letter, note or card. (Or you phone them, which is even better.) The second time is in the next appeal letter that you mail. Somewhere in that letter, preferably somewhere in the first few paragraphs, thank your donor for the last gift you received from them. Like you, donors who feel appreciated are more likely to give again.

You asked them for a gift

This sounds like a self-evident fact, but its one of the basic tenets of fundraisingpeople give because they are asked. Which means people dont usually give unless they are asked, and until they are asked. Many development officers can tell stories of major donors they have approached who, when asked for the first time for a large donation, gave immediately. They would have given sooner. But they were not asked sooner. Your donors expect you to ask for a donation. If you do not ask them for a donation, they assume that you do not need their donation. And if you dont ask, be sure that someone else will.

You showed the donor a way to make a difference

You dont get prospects to come over to your side by explaining the many reasons you deserve support. You get prospects to join you by offering them an exciting, interesting problem to solve, says Conrad Squires in his book Teach Yourself to Write Irresistible Fund-raising Letters. Amen.

2006 Sharpe Copy Inc.

About the Author: Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer, instructor, coach, author and newsletter publisher who helps non-profit organizations to raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using cost-effective, compelling, creative fundraising letters. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at


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