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38 Best Fundraising Tips for Nonprofits

Here are some of the best fundraising tips for nonprofits. Write successful nonprofit appeal letters with our top nonprofit tips.

  • P.S… Use a P.S. Message! We have to accept it – most people don’t read the whole letter. But what part do they read? The PS message – so make it count! Always ask your donors to give in the PS message, and make it clear what their donation will help accomplish.
  • It’s All About… Not You! When you are writing an appeal or thanking your donor, make sure you are making them the hero! Don’t write “We need your help to feed a child for a week.” Write “You can feed a child for a week with your generous gift!” Take out the words “we” or “our” from your letters and make it about the donor. Your donors are the heroes!
  • Fresh Peepers for Proofreading: Get a fresh set of eyes to proofread when you have completed your project. Notice we said proofread, not critique. After looking at what you’ve been writing for hours, you can start to skim over any errors, odd phrasing, or missing words. A new perspective can help catch those!
  • Lead with stories, not statistics. People give to help people. Take your case for support and make it about people. Your donors want to change lives, not numbers.
  • Embrace the Space: Make your letter as easy to read as possible by adding lots of blank space. This means shorter letters that get to the point quickly. Remove any stumbling blocks like big walls of text. Make it easy for your readers to skim!
  • The Fundraising Font Size: Leave the 12-point font for essays or official documents! For fundraising, anywhere from 13-point to 15-point is the best way to make your letter easy for donors to read. Easier to read = easier to donate.
  • The Fundraising Font Style, Part 1: The best font for fundraising? One your donor can read! For the majority of folks, this means serif fonts – think Times New Roman or Garamond. Those little tails on the ends of the letters make it easier to read, and even help people recognize words faster.
  • The Fundraising Font Style, Part 2: While it may look pretty to use a lot of different font colors in your letters, it’s much harder to read. Higher contrast text – think bold, black text – on white paper is your best bet for making your letter easy to read. A letter that’s easier to read equals a letter that makes it easier to donate!
  • Read it Out Loud: Make sure you read your piece aloud before sending it! Read every word – no skimming or reciting from memory. If there are spots where you repeatedly stumble it may be a good idea to rework the phrasing. It’s also a good idea to have someone else read it aloud to see where they struggle.
  • Urgency = Action: If you want people to respond right now to your ask for help you need to write about right now. In the world of fundraising, making your story feel timeless makes it feel irrelevant or unimportant. Make your story urgent to get a response.
  • “We can’t afford a newsletter.” Not to worry! You can condense the basics of a newsletter into a one page “report letter.” Be honest with your donors, and tell them you can’t afford a newsletter, but let them know it’s important that they know how much of a difference they’ve made. And even invite them to make their next gift!
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat! Feel like you’ve heard this before? That’s because it’s important! Ask for support often – at least a few times in your letter. And ask often throughout the year too, not just at year end.
  • Stop distracting me! Often, in an appeal mailing we’ll see various messages throughout or a PS message about following social media accounts, checking the org’s website for a resource, or alerting people to an upcoming event. Don’t do this! These “attention leaks” take people away from the main goal of your appeal – to get money to help those in need. Don’t distract your donors from giving.
  • No one cares about your anniversary. Sorry to say it, but your donors don’t really care that your org is celebrating an anniversary. What they care about is how their donations will make a difference. Celebrating 30 years in your community? Ask for gifts in increments of $30 & explain how they’ll help!
  • Photos: Proceed with caution. Images often distract from the main goal of a letter – getting donations! If you have to include a photo on an appeal, make sure the subject of the picture is sad looking – this captures the urgent need for funding. Save happy photos for stewardship pieces.
  • Tell your donors they’ve made a difference. Often, a newsletter is the most recommended way to share with your donors how they’ve made a difference. But what if you can’t send a newsletter this year? Consider a report letter.
  • Watermark = Not Worth It: There’s an outdated idea floating around the nonprofit world that your donor feels special or elite when getting a letter on an expensive piece of watermarked paper. In reality, your donors are more likely to appreciate that you are spending money wisely – not on expensive paper.
  • “Join me…” Bleh! Asking your donors to join you for anything that isn’t an “evening of fine dining” is weird, let’s admit it. Because in reality, your donors aren’t joining you in anything. They can’t join you at the office to help those who need it most, but their monetary gifts can make a difference! Make appeals straightforward in asking donors to make a difference – with their gifts.
  • More is Better: In fundraising there isn’t really a “one and done” messaging strategy. It can take up to 8 times before your recipients have built enough trust to receive and respond to your message. Be sure to create a complete communication plan including follow ups.
  • Above the Fold: You may have heard of the term “above the fold” used for newspapers – think about that when you’re asking your donor to give. You want to include the ask in your letter as soon as possible, and at least on the front page. Recipients skim their letters before reading the whole thing – don’t hide the ask towards the end!
  • Don’t Finish the Story: When writing a letter asking for your donor’s help be sure to leave it open ended. Your donor is the solution to a problem. If you tell them the story of a hungry child, don’t end the letter by explaining how much better they are doing in school now that they have a full stomach. Leave the success story for a thank you card after they’ve donated.
  • How much makes a difference? It’s hard to do something when you don’t have clear directions, right? It’s the same idea when you don’t make it clear to your donors how much money they can give that will make a meaningful difference. Make a clear example, such as “$30 can feed a child two healthy meals everyday for a week.” Your donors want to make a difference, let them know how.
  • Spell It Out! Don’t make your donor work to understand why they’re receiving something from you. If you’re asking them for financial support, be up front about it. Your donors are smart, but busy – respect their time by getting to the reason quickly.
  • Indent Paragraphs Indenting paragraphs proves to be a great way to make your letters more readable. That little bump in the text acts as a visual “entry point” for your readers, making them more likely to read more of your letter!
  • Leave it Blank! The first step to getting a donation from a direct mail appeal is getting your donors to open the letter. And how can you ensure they do that? Make the outer envelope interesting and maybe even a little mysterious! One way to do that is to skip the return address on the outer envelope. Your mailing will stand out and will likely be opened first!
  • You’re Not the Hero Sorry to say it, but you’re not the hero. Your donors are the heroes! In every communication you send focus on what each individual donor can do to make a difference.
  • Now KISS… Keep It Super Simple! Earlier this week we told you that “more is better” – but that only applies to how often you talk to your supporters! When designing your communications keeping it super simple and clean improves your ability to get the message to your donors. Don’t distract them with flashy colors, lots of pictures, or crowded letters.
  • An Email Tip! When using buttons in your emails make sure the text on the button highlights what giving does, not the act of giving. For example, make the button say “Yes, I’ll help a local family!” rather than “Yes, I’ll give!”
  • What is the true purpose of a newsletter? Mostly, newsletters are to let people know the difference they’ve made in the lives of those who need help most! And then, the next time they are asked to give, those donors are much more likely to say yes and write you a check.
  • “I felt like I was there…” The best way to write a letter that gets donations is to create an emotional connection. A surefire way to create an emotional connection is to make the reader envision themselves in your story. Use clear descriptions of the problem, and make it obvious how the donor can be the hero everyone needs in the story.
  • You just have to convince ONE person We all know that writing for fundraising should be thought of as if we are writing a letter to a friend. Keep that in mind when thinking of your message. Avoid trying to convince every person to give by sharing multiple messages. Just convince one person with a clear message.
  • Trust the Classics! “A letter that looks like a letter will do better.” This clever rhyme is a good reminder to keep things straightforward when creating an appeal. Make it obvious to your donors that you’re writing a letter asking for support!
  • Why so serious? Part 1: Be fun! You’ve heard it everywhere, “Writing for fundraising is completely different than other writing!” This is true. You want to make sure your letter sounds like a human wrote it, and that you’re not just spouting off jargon. But it takes a delicate balance to get this right.
  • Why so serious? Part 2: Be clear, then be fun. While you want your fundraising writing to be human, you don’t want readers to get lost in the fun of it that they forget why you’re writing to them. Start off your appeals with specific and clear asks, so your readers know what the point of the letter is. Then you can bring in the human touch that’s needed.
  • Don’t wait! The likelihood of another gift from a donor peaks about 45 days after their first gift – and then that likelihood goes down, very quickly. Make sure you’re asking your supporters to give often.
  • Know your donor. Personalize letters beyond a donor’s name. Ask for gifts built on their previous donations or feature a story that is relevant to programs they have supported.
  • Optimize for Older Donors When creating a direct mail piece we may be tempted to make everything look “pretty.” But sometimes “pretty” doesn’t equal “effective” – which is the goal of direct mail. Give your text room to breathe, make it easy to read, and make important messages bold.
  • Perfect Picture Captions If you want to include pictures in your appeals, newsletters, or other donor communications be sure to use the caption! Make the caption about the donor’s role in what’s happening in the photo. For example: “Thanks to you, Emma was able to get free breakfast at school everyday last month!” Captions should not just be about the photo, they should be about the donor!

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