A confused mind always says "no."

And nonprofits want to hear more donors say "Yes!" (Yes? Yes!)

So why do so many nonprofits leave their donors with confused minds?

Here's what I mean.

I'd bet your nonprofit is getting ready to send its year-end fundraising appeal letter.


Before you send it to the printer, take a minute to see if you can say "yes" to these three simple questions.

You'd be surprised at how many fundraisers can't say their letters do this!


Honestly, I'm shocked at how many nonprofits simply don't come out and "ask" for a gift.

Here are a few non-asks (from real nonprofits that "asked" me to give last year):

It is our hope that you will renew your support again this year.
If you are able to make a donation, please make check payable to...
We hope you'll consider making a contribution - any size gift will help.

Vague or veiled messages like these simply confuse your donor.

You'll have more success when you tell your donor exactly what you want her to do.

Take that third line: "We hope you'll consider making a contribution - any size gift will help."

If you ask her to "consider making a contribution," she may consider it. But will she give?

Compare that to asking her to "make a $50 contribution." She's more likely to do it. Simply because you asked directly.

See the difference?

Tips for a better ask

As a starting point, always ask for a specific amount in your letter.

That said, avoid a one-size-fit-all letter that suggests a broad range. Don't say "Please send $50, $100, $250, $500 or $1,000." That's confusing. With so many options, she doesn't know what to send.

And don't make a blanket statement that "Any amount will help." Again, that's confusing.

There's a little bit of math involved to help you figure out a meaningful number that every donor can afford.

For now, just know that simply by asking for a specific amount, you'll raise more. That's because you've eliminated the confusion about what you want your donor to do.

Here's another asking tip: Don't bury the lede.

That is to say, don't wait until the end of your letter to "ask." Be bold, ask early, and ask directly.

And here's one more tip: Ask again.

Repetition rules in fundraising communications. So, think about asking at least 3 times in your letter. Near the beginning of your appeal, near the end, and again in the P.S.


Here's a reality check. Donors aren't reading every word you write. (Be honest. You don't read everything you get either.)

But, there's good news! Eye-tracking studies have shown us what donors do read.

One of those things is the post script.

Tips for a better post script

Because the P.S. is something that people read (even when they don't read your letter), it's critical that you're using it to your advantage.

The P.S. should restate your case. Think about summarizing your entire letter in the post script.

Don't introduce a brand new or random topic in the P.S. (That just confuses donors.)

The post script can be a sentence. Two sentences. Two paragraphs. Or more! Because it's so important (and most likely to be read), make the P.S. as long as it needs to be.

Great post scripts will remind the donor why her gift is needed and why she needs to give - today.


People respond to deadlines. So you need to give donors a reason to give. In every appeal.

"Return your gift by December 31" is a great deadline for your year-end appeal. It's as simple as that.

Without a deadline, there's no urgency. Your donor will be left without a reason to give today.

Tips for deadlines and reasons to give

Remember, you're not limited to asking once a year.

Spring appeal? Just tie the date to the campaign. "Return your gift by May 31."

Maybe you have a matching gift. If so, tell your donor "Your gift will be matched when you send it by [date]."

You might also have a reason that's still important - but less deadline driven. How about this?

"We have 20 families on the waiting list, but our resources are running thin. We need to raise [amount] to meet the current need. Please send your donation today."

Create a sense of urgency. And eliminate any confusion by telling your donor exactly when you need her give.


Look at your last appeal letter (or the one you're about to send) and consider the following:

Did you ask? (Directly? Early? More than once?)

Did you use a P.S? (Effectively?)

Did you give the donor a deadline? (Or a reason to give today?)

When you can answer "Yes" to those three questions, you're making it easier for your donor to say "Yes!" to you.

Photo credit(s): Pixabay

Need help writing a fundraising appeal letter that will raise more money? Laura Rhodes can help.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.

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