10 Steps to Create an Appeal Letter That Brings in the Money

It’s not too late to create a dynamite compelling appeal letter that will make your donors tear it open and send in a quick gift.

How do you get your appeal letter to stand out from the crowd?

How do you get your appeal letter to stand out from the crowd?

You are probably working very hard right now to craft appeal letters that will bring in generous gifts.

You’re probably pondering questions such as

  • What’s the best way to frame your case?
  • How to make your ask more specific?
  • What kind of picture, if any, should you include?
  • Will your “brand” folks try to stop a more creative look?

Appeal letters are both art and science.

And thanks to tons of research and data mining, you can find out now – from careful testing – what works best with donors today.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I devote much of September and October every year to helping you craft profitable fundraising appeals and campaigns.

My goal is to help you grow and succeed as a fundraiser and nonprofit leader — and to bring in tons of generous gifts always!

Creating a Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign

And I hope you know about our Creating a Highly Profitable Year-End Campaign series too. I’ve pulled together my favorite gurus to give you their teaching on how to master and execute each aspect of your year-end campaign.

We can help you grow better equipped to pull off your most profitable year-end campaign yet. If you’d like to find out more about how this can help you, please click here. 

Tips from Mazarine Treyz.

Mazarine Treyz

Mazarine Treyz

We had our first Highly Profitable class this week on Wednesday with Mazarine Treyz of Wild Woman Fundraising, discussing with us “How To Create a Stunning Direct Mail Appeal, Piece by Piece.”

Mazarine gave us a very nice formula for ALL good appeal letters. It was so good, in fact, that I wanted to bring it to ALL the readers of my blog.

10 Steps to an Appeal Letter that Brings In the Money.

I’d like for you to study and follow this template. If you do, I will guarantee that your donors will respond generously to it.

This is a tested and proven format for 2014 fundraising that speaks to 2014 donors.

1. Header.

The best letters have a header in bold at the top.

The header needs to be short, snappy and no more than 3 lines.

Screenshot 2014-10-02 21.19.50

Here’s a header that works nicely: Short and totally focused on the mission – not the organization.

It needs to be clear and urgent – referring to your case for support and what you want to do.

Something like “celebrating 30 years!” is NOT donor-centric. I would call this one lame and self-serving.

2. Salutation.

Please don’t say Dear Friend.

And if your donor has ever given in the past, then please don’t get their name wrong!!

Your donor expects that you know her name and who she is, since she’s been sending you money for a while!

3.  Short attention grabbing first sentence.

Would you read this opening sentence??  I would!
See if you can write an opening sentence this strong!
“This is the most difficult letter I have ever written in the 10
years I have been the executive director of your domestic violence center. 

Will your donor read or ditch your letter?

Will your donor read or ditch your letter?

4. Body copy that:

  • tells a story
  • presents a problem and a solution
  • and/or presents your offer along with benefits and details

What’s your offer? That’s what you are clearly asking donors to fund.

It’s got to be something interesting, urgent and exciting.

It’s got to be specific. It’s got to have urgency. It’s got to have emotion and passion.

5. Call to action.

Such as:  “use the envelope and give today!”

You need to explicitly tell your donor – in the letter – what you want her to do.

You can tell your donors clearly to please “send in a generous contribution quickly.

6. Guarantee to back up your offer.

What’s a guarantee? It reminds the donor again what she can accomplish if thru her gift.

Such as, “if you make this gift, you’ll be able to help a kid in Africa have new hope for a healthy life.”

7. Deadline.

Having a deadline will promote a faster and more likely response from your donor.

You have to give her a reason to give and to give NOW.

You've got to give your donor a reason to act NOW.

You’ve got to give your donor a reason to act NOW.

Tell her time is running out to help the kids or people you help, or that your matching challenge gift only is in effect for another 2 weeks.

8. Sign off with a handwritten signature.

Use a script signature to make the letter seem more personal and more real.

If you are sending out only a few special letters, then hand sign them.

If not your printer can print a scripted signature – and make sure it’s in blue ink if you are using color.

9. PS (Post Script).

Your PS is prime real estate! Many studies say that the donor will open the letter and read the PS first.

So make your PS work for you. It could:

  • Restate your offer – (the kids will get your help now)
  • Remind about the deadline
  • Make a bonus offer (your gift will be matched!)

Or it could be about something else you want to highlight.

10. Remittance envelope.

The #1 rule in my book for direct mail is “Make it easy for your donors to give.”

Include a small return envelope or a postage paid BRE (Business Reply Envelope).

Don’t make your donor work to send in their gift!


11. Create urgency in your letter this way:

Mazarine suggests these phrases:

  • Please try to give something.
  • I hope you will join in contributing…
  • We desperately need your help.
  • We cannot continue our work without your help.

And she suggested using these words to create urgency:

  • Emergency…
  • Crisis…
  • Disaster…
  • Threat…
  • Immediate…
  • Urgent…
  • Hurry…


Use this terrific template to lay out your own appeal letter. And let me know how you do!

Comments please!