Free Fundraising Letters With The Personal Touch
Free fundraising letters are all over the web but most are just guidelines. As a community organization fundraiser you will most likely be writing to local businesses. That means loosing the stiffness and writing as if you were standing talking to that person.
As a community organization there's not such thing as read-made free fundraising letters. Fundraising letters are free because you develop the skills to write them without having to pay someone else to do it. You can do that easily by following the guidelines on this page.
Community Organizations can use letters seek help from businesses, foundations, local government or any other organization (or individual) that may be in a position to offer their support. Usually the letter is just a time saver that enables you to tests the water with several organizations without having to use up your valuable time visiting them all. But treat it as such. A letter is never a substitute for a face-to-face meeting.
Let's look at how to write compelling free fundraising letters that motivate local business people to support your organization.
Your free fundraising letters must have a central focus or theme. Regardless of what help you are requesting, you must focus on the impact your group is making in the lives of people, i.e. your benefits. Your supporters like to know that you are really making a difference in the local community.
Lets take a look at my sports club. Do you think we exist to act as babysitters for the local youth? No, of course we dont. We exist so that they can learn valuable skills such as self-confidence, team work, physical skills and general life skills. Sometimes its not always obvious what your benefits are so make sure you state them early in your letter, but not until youve got their attention.
So no matter what your organization is about, focus on the people that benefit from your efforts. If you do this then your free fundraising letters will be much more successful. Often, the best way to do this is to tell the actual story of someone you've helped. Describe the situation, call them by name if possible, and then tell how your organization has helped that person. The more successful that person is now (or the more famous), the better. In show how peoples lives are being enriched by your efforts, you'll be proving your organization's effectiveness. You'll also be making the cause real to your readers, which is a powerful motivator for supporting you. Always remember to include stories that will engage the reader, not just show off accomplishments.
Yes, your free fundraising letters need a heading! Maybe you're saying, "Hold up, this is a letter, not a magazine ad!" Yes it is a letter, but never forget that, its also a sales letter and like any sales letter a heading can be a great attention grabber. Lets face it most people that work in businesses (even if they are local) receive many sponsorship request letters each year. Many of these requests will be dumped before the first line is ever read. The same goes for advertising. If the headline doesnt arouse their interest, people simply move on to the need thing.
Youre only limited by your imagination as to what type of headline that you use. Here are a couple of examples: My Org: Providing facilities for the youth of our community since 1956. This uses the "we're well established" perspective. My Org Needs You! This makes a direct plea. Are you a community hero? Follow this up in your first line by saying something like, My organization has been providing an outlet for the youth of our community for over 50 years now, but we only survive with the generous support of community businesses such as yours&
Keep the headline to 1-2 lines and format it in large bold font. I find headlines are more effective if they are enclosed in double quotes. Sometimes I put the heading in Red font but do what suits the profile of your organization.
The single purpose of the headline in your free fundraising letters, is to get the reader to read on to your opening paragraph. Likewise your opening is designed to get that person to read on to the next section, and so on. Youll hardly be surprised when I say that the most effective openings are those that engage the reader! The best openings get the person to do something; usually by thinking about something. You can use phrases such as, "Just imagine if&", "Right now&", "Think about&", "Why is it that&", "Without a doubt&", "Please dont overlook&
The best free fundraising letters start with open-ended questions. Questions offer a challenge which our brain cant help but accept. The brain will work until it gets an answer. Avoid using yes/no questions, because in these cases the answer is too easy the internal conversation in the readers mind just stops. So for example I might say, Dear John, Why should you support / continue to support our organization?
Try to keep the sentences in your opening short and easy to read. The opening paragraph shouldnt be more than two or three sentences. Following from above, the rest of the opening could be: Well, let me put it another way, the real questions are, why is so valuable to our community and what impact does it have on peoples lives?, As you read on, you will begin to realize why is so valuable to our community and how you benefit if you give us your support.
The body of your free fundraising letters should be a natural follow-up to your opening. Make sure you answer any questions you asked in the opening. Ive seen letters that ask questions and never answer them. This is a real motivation killer.
You need to tell the story of why your organization is so valuable and how it changes peoples lives. You need to tell them exactly why you need their support and what youll use the money for. It helps if you can tie its usage to a specific project because that can make a huge difference to their ongoing support. Imagine their sense of community spirit when they see the project completed and are able to say they contributed to its success. It doesnt do any harm to ask them to imagine that, in your letter.
What To Ask For
As a sporting community organization, our free fundraising letters are usually requests for the business or individual, to purchase advertising space in return for cash. Sometimes it can also be a donation of their goods and / or services.
Sometimes we get donations with no strings attached but usually only charitable organizations are afforded that luxury. That doesnt mean you cant get condition-free donations of money or services. Sometimes ex-pats are willing to make a financial contribution because they cant contribute by supporting your events and campaigns. Likewise if youve somebody deeply involved in your organization that also owns a business then you can get free donations.
If youre having a draw or auction sometimes you can request that individuals or businesses donate prizes. Weve sold advertising space, around our playing fields, in match programs, on our playing gear and even at holes at golf days. Weve also got race sponsorship for our nights at the races. Im sure youll come up with many others.
The Call To Action
The call to action is arguably the most important part of yoir free fundraising letters. Tell them exactly what you require. You want them to respond to your letter by taking some action. It may be that you just want to arrange a face-to-face meeting with them. Tell them how they will benefit from the deal. Tell them how to complete the transaction. Offer contact details so that they can get their questions answered. It doesnt matter if the details are somewhere else on the letter; repeat it in the call to action so that they dont delay a decision.
I find its usually best to close my free fundraising letters with, Best Wishes, or Kind Regards. Always type your name and position but above all else make sure you sign your name in ink on the paper (i.e. dont include a scanned image of your signature). You always want the reader to get the feeling that you took time to write this letter and that you wrote it for their eyes only. It helps if the signatory is someone in a position of authority in the organization, such as the chairperson or secretary.
You can use techniques such as bold, italics and exclamation marks to add some life to the text of your free fundraising letetrs, but dont over do it. For example, having too many exclamation marks can give the impression of hype or insincerity. I also try to spice up the story telling by using descriptive words.
Keep the writing confined to a series of small paragraphs of 3-5 lines, each separated by a blank line. People are more likely to read on if the text is broken up in this way. I mostly use the font Arial in 10 or 12 point size but you may have your own preferences.
Review Before You Send
Get your volunteers to review your free fundraising letters for readability, flow, effectiveness and spelling / grammar. Brainstorm the concepts in the letter to see if you can make it better. It also helps to ask people not familiar with your organization, to review it so you can get a fresh perspective. Have someone with a flair for writing and a keen eye to proof read it as well. Put it in an envelope, record the details and send it.
Make sure you send thank-you letters to all successful requests. If you still havent got a reply after a week or so, then follow-up with a call. Try to arrange a face-to-face. Track the status of every request and dont let any fall by the wayside just because you didnt follow-up.
Follow these simple steps and you'll have your own free fundraising letters that are written with your own style and personality. As I say, don't try to be too formal. After all we're community organizations and its people from the local community that we're generally addressing, so you're talking to friends.
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