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Skagit Valley Hospital

Writing a Personal Appeal Letter

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We at The Collins Group spend our professional lives advising clients on best practices to communicate with donors. Yet writing an appeal letter for a personal cause remains an incredibly challenging fundraising effort. It seems like it should be easy formula. Worthy cause? Check.  Admirable organization? Check. Compelling human element? Check.  A + B + C = lots of
money!  Simple, right?

After two years at TCG, I recently had to put into practice everything I have absorbed as part of the fundraising consulting world to write a personal appeal letter for a cause near and dear to my heart: the annual Walk MS event for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Northwest Chapter. I thought that I would knock that letter out of the park! I work with
fundraising professionals every day! I know how to do this. Then I stared at my computer screen for a really long time. I knew it wasn’t easy, but I didn’t expect how hard it would be to actually write my own letter versus the support I provide to our consultants every day on the same topics. Here are a few of my personal lessons learned.

Get specific

Explain clearly and succinctly the who, the what, the how, and the why. Who is the organization you are fundraising for? What they do? How does their mission impact people?  In
addition and, perhaps most importantly, why are you involved? Even though you are most likely writing an appeal to people within your social and professional networks, don’t assume they
are familiar with your organization or cause.

Make it personal

Donors respond to stories. They want to know the stories and reasons as to why you are choosing this particular cause to spend your time and energy on to raise money. If you connect a personal story to your case statement, it’s much more effective in reaching your audience.

Make it bold and true

Explain your fundraising goals clearly and often. Tell your potential donors exactly how much money you are trying to raise and why. My fundraising goal is a seemingly arbitrary $2,665,
but it’s not. This number represents my out-of-pocket medical costs for the year. By personalizing my fundraising goal and making it symbolic of a greater cause, I am asking my donors to emotionally connect. And, I’m proud to say, the MS Walk has been able to exceed our fundraising goals every year.

Cultivate those relationships

Your donors know you so you must tailor your appeal to each person so they aren’t put off by receiving a boilerplate request. Use your network and social media to broaden your reach. Thank your donors for supporting you and update them on the status of your fundraising efforts. Most importantly, ask your current donors to speak out for you. Last year, one of my team members
invited her good friends (whom I hadn’t met) to join the team. They had such a great time at the MS Walk that I not only got a shout out in their annual Christmas letter, but was able to cultivate repeat donors for future efforts. We’ll all be walking at the April MS walk together. Want to join us?

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About the Author

Anne Clark

Anne Clark

Research Associate

Anne’s training as a librarian benefits Collins and clients alike as she researches the latest nonprofit trends and statistics.

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