Does your nonprofit struggle each year to create a meaningful letter to support your annual fund? Do you review past letters (and past results) to see what has worked and what has not? Do you wait until the last minute and then have to scramble to get the mailing out? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, read on to discover the three things that you can add to that letter that will significantly increase your contributions.
1. Testimonials from people who have benefited from your programs or services
Many nonprofits include client testimony in all their written documents and for that I applaud them. When doing this in a letter, make sure the comment speaks to whatever aspect of your mission you are highlighting in the request and that it is clear, concise and meaningful. Also, include who said it. You can use the client's name (with permission, of course) or you can use a general statement (such as "attendee at our event").
2. A picture that demonstrates how your nonprofit achieves its mission
An environmental group that has just completed a park clean up could include photos of the park before and after. An arts group could add the painting that recently won a blue ribbon in the annual competition. A church that offers dinners for those in need could have a picture of their volunteers serving meals. A key point to remember is that, if you want to include a picture where you can identify the people, you must get written permission from all people who are in the picture. If even one person denies permission, you can not use the picture. Many nonprofits do have people sign general photo releases to be kept on file.
3. Children's drawings or sketches
Does your nonprofit run programs for children (such as nature walks, museum tours, etc.)? If the children are part of a school group, they often send thank you notes to the organization and these quite frequently include sketches (especially from the youngger children). You can impress your potential donors by including a simple picture drawn by a child who really enjoyed the program you offered.
Think about using one (or all) of these ideas when drafting your next letter. To be most effective, the testimonial, photo and / or drawing should be included within the body of the letter. This accomplishes two things: it keeps your letter coherent and it breaks up the text to make your letter more appealing.
© 2010 Jane b. Ford, M.Ed.