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3 Tweaks That Can Be Made to Your Existing Fundraising Appeal Letter to Drive Response

While most fundraising professionals we speak to find it difficult to convince their leadership team that it is time to try something new with their organization’s annual fundraising campaigns, it is essential to the survival of every non-profit organization to innovate.

If you are not doing so, your campaigns will suffer from an inability to stand out among a sea of other organizations soliciting donations from the same set of current and potential donors.

You must design your appeal letter to stand out and show that your cause is worthy of a donor’s time, attention, and money.

That being said, you do not need perform a complete overhaul of your campaign. In fact, there are several small tweaks you can make to ensure that your existing fundraising appeal letters are optimized to drive response.

Here are three tweaks you can make right now:

1. Find someone new to mail to.

Your donor database is a great starting point for fundraising appeals. However, if you are sending mail to the same people over and over again, chances are they are going to start feeling fatigued after a while. Plus, you have to account for the list naturally shrinking as people move or pass away. Studies show that marketing databases decay at a rate of 23% a year.

To combat that, consider utilizing prospects lists in conjunction with your house list, to extend your reach to a new set of audience(s). Data service providers give you the ability to create a prospect list that is entirely relevant to your cause. You can set your parameters to include demographic and psychographic information that indicate a high propensity to donate to you.

2. Develop (or adjust) your ask matrix.

As you close the letter and make the ask, it is generally a great idea to include a variable ask matrix – or set of suggested donations – that starts at the amount of the donor’s last donation.

This is a subtle and almost subliminal way to encourage them to make a higher donation than the year before as they choose one of the higher donation amounts so as to seem more generous than donating the minimum amount. At the very least, even if they choose to give the minimum anyway, you have opened the door for them to give a consistent amount of money each time they donate.

One thing to keep in mind when planning your ask matrix is just how generous you want them to be this year vs. years past. Again, we recommend starting the lowest ask at the amount the donor gave last year. From there, you will want to increase the ask levels in a steady increment that makes sense.

We have spoken with some people that have constructed their ask matrices using formulas that increase the smallest ask from the year prior. While this may work for some organizations, it is important to keep in mind that a donor might remember donating $30 last year and be turned away by a $45 minimum ask. It depends on your audience and the relationship you have with your donors.

3. Refine your call to action.

Think about what you are asking the donor to do and where you are placing this call-to-action on your appeal letter. You will want to make it very clear what their response options are and how they can make their donation.

Standard appeal letters include a tear-off portion at the bottom of the page. We recommend utilizing this space for the ask matrix, as well as the address block so that when they mail it back you know exactly who is responding – eliminating the risk of the donor forgetting to write their name down or having illegible handwriting that makes it difficult to know who the donation came from.

This is also a great place to include who to make the check payable to. We also recommend including a reply envelope with your address printed on it so they know exactly where to mail the check.

If you allow donors to pay over the phone, you will want to make sure that phone number is prominently displayed. This also applies to website links if you allow online donations – here, it is also important to make sure that the link is short and easy for the donor to type in.

The Bottom Line

If you make these three tweaks to your next fundraising appeal, you should see an increased response from current and prospective donors alike.


Have a larger budget and feel particularly innovative? Here are three brand new ideas to try:

1. Utilize augmented reality (AR).

Bring your mail to life by adding videos to it using AR technology. This is a great way to revamp any buckslips or other inserts you may already be including in your appeal package. You can encourage recipients to activate the AR using their phone, where they are then directed to your organization’s videos and program success stories.

2. Make your message stick – with magnets.

Include magnets with event calendars, save-the-dates, and other important reminders. This keeps your organization’s logo and brand in front of the customer all year long.

3. Be creative with your formats.

If you have an organization with a physical location that you encourage your constituents to travel to, consider designing your mail as a travel guide that positions you as a “premier destination” for them to visit. This will cut through the clutter by looking different than other non-profit mail. You may also want to encourage people to “check in” on social media when they get there. This encourages positive interaction with your social media pages, growing that traffic at the same time.