Fall Fundraising Letters: 5 Ways to Boost Your Response Rates

September 11, 2014

Guest Blog by Linda Catling, Catling Communications, Associate Member of Maryland Nonprofits

Linda Catling is a copywriter specializing in marketing and fundraising communications for nonprofits and small businesses.


For most nonprofits, fall is prime time for individual donations. People are accustomed to making year-end gifts for tax purposes, and expect to receive solicitation letters (both email and print).  The stronger the letter, the higher the response rate will be.

5 Tips for Strong Fundraising Letters:

1. Design for Readability:  The reader must be able to get key points quickly, just by skimming the letter.  Make the layout attractive and the font large enough to read comfortably. Use elements like headlines, bolding and boxes to highlight text.

2. Balance Facts and Emotional Appeal: Facts add substance to a letter, but it’s the emotional piece that stimulates the urge to give.  That’s why true stories work well in fundraising letters. Stories create an emotional connection between the reader and the organization The kind of connection that leads to a gift.



In the first half of 2014, ABC helped 1000 clients save money and eat better, by teaching them to cook nutritious meals. In the year-end fundraising letter ABC shares this fact. But then they go further.  They tell the heartwarming story of a client named Chris D., whose health, and outlook on life, has dramatically improved because of the program.


3. Say What Needs to Be Said: Shorter letters (single page) are fine for people who already give. But for potential donors, who aren’t familiar with the charity, it’s worth adding extra pages to make a compelling case for donating.

4. Help the Donor Feel Good About the Gift: Give the donor tangible reasons to make a gift and feel good about it. Connect the gift to an outcome the donor values.

5. Make the Ask Early: Readers may not make it to the end of the letter.  Ask for a gift in the first couple paragraphs.  Then restate the request during the closing.

While there are multiple factors that impact response rates — including lists and mailing schedules – a strong, well-crafted letter is key to getting the results you want this fundraising season.

Join Maryland Nonprofits’ 2014 Annual Conference “Connecting for Impact!” November 5th at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville, MD. 



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