Writing fund raising letters is often the part of a fundraising campaign that people hate most. Asking for money and help is tough enough face-to-face; when you have to put the request down in black and white, it's sometimes even harder. However, our guide will help you through the pitfalls, while our page of sample fundraising letters will give you templates to work off if you're really stuck.
There's really only one golden rule of letter-writing: THINK. Think about the person to whom you're writing the letter, think about what you are asking for and think about how your letter will appear to the reader. A little consideration for the person at the other end goes a long way to helping you write a successful fund raising letter.
The first essential of writing fund raising letters is the preparation. This is the tough bit, and you have to do it before you can sit down at your keyboard. It may involve a little legwork or some phone calls. First, think about the kind of people you'll be contacting and what you hope to achieve. For example, you may be getting in touch with businesses. You might want them to donate money to your campaign directly, or you may want a non-financial donation, such as a raffle prize. Or you might be asking for advice. For example, you might want the local bakery to tell you what its most popular products are, so you have an idea of what to make for your forthcoming bake sale. Think about what you want. Is it a realistic request? In many cases, local businesses are your best bet, but they're unlikely to have a million dollars to spare.
Then work out who is the best person to contact at each company. Sometimes the public relations department handles charity requests, because helping good causes is excellent PR. But the company might be too small to have a PR person, or so large that you can't tell who does what. In that case, go straight to the top and write to the managing director or the CEO. Don't worry about bothering important people - if they're that important, they will have someone else to read their mail for them anyway, and it might well get passed on to the right person.
Getting the recipient's name right is also important. A real person's name will see your letter reach a real person much faster. Addressing a letter to "the PR department" may result in your letter being passed around from desk to desk unopened for a while, as nobody wants it to be their problem. Using the name of a long-departed employee also sends a clear signal that you don't know much about the company and that your letter probably isn't very relevant or important.
Correct spelling and grammar are vital, as is laying out your letter in a legible way. You don't have to go overboard with fancy designs, but you do have to make sure that the letter is readable. They're all part of the battle to get your request taken seriously; if you send out scribbled letters with crossings-out and misspellings you will look like an amateur.
Mail merge is a useful tool for people sending out fund raising letters on a large scale. You can do this with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. You store the name and address details in the Excel spreadsheet and then design a letter template in Word. The mail merge allows you to send hundreds of copies of a letter to different people without retyping names and addresses over and over again. You can also use it to print your envelopes. Just make sure your signatures are handwritten; a typed or rubber-stamped signature is too impersonal.
One word of warning: be careful how you address letters. If someone's name is John Smith, you should begin your letter "Dear Mr Smith" or "Dear John", depending on how well you know him. Hastily-done mail merges can result in letters beginning "Dear Smith" or "Dear John Smith". This alerts the letter-reader to a) the fact that it's a mass mailing and b) the fact that you don't really know what you're doing. This all means less chance of getting what you want out of the letter.
Finally, remember to back your letter up with a phone call. This will add a personal touch as well as jogging a few memories. It might even save your letter from the trash can!
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