Let’s be real. People don’t read letters. They scan them, to see if they want to read the whole thing.
The first thing they read is their name. (We all like to see our names.) Then comes the first paragraph. You want to grab their attention. You want to entice them to read the rest of the letter. You want to infect them with your enthusiasm.
How do you start?
Tell them why you are writing. It’s that easy. There are usually two reasons:
- Good news! Always good news! “I writing today to tell you that our production of “Hair” sold out all 16 performances.” “Just a note to let you know we fed 500 homeless children at our last event.” Find something exciting, and brag about it.
- We want a contribution from you. Don’t be cute about it. Don’t hint around. Tell them flat out that you need money from them, to continue your exciting work. “We hope you will support [or continue to support] our work with a generous donation.”
Many people won’t read any further. (At least not now. They might come back to it later.) But you have conveyed your entire message of the letter in a couple of sentences. They know why you are sending them a letter.
It is entirely appropriate for a charity to ask for money.
One of the biggest mistakes I see in appeal letters is — no appeal. Many nonprofits have trouble asking for donations. They dance around the subject, they hem and haw. I understand it is not easy. But you have to ask. Otherwise you won’t get anything.
Let me say it again. You have to ask or you won’t get anything.
It is expected that you need donations. It is understood. So ask for money, and see what happens. I dare you. And let me know how it goes.