For the last few months, I have focused on what I consider significant issues we face as fundraisers. I am returning to some basic techniques for writing direct mail appeal letters.

There are genuinely some basics I like to follow: 

  1. Write a two-page letter. I have heard people suggest a four-page letter, but I think that is extreme. Also, the back page does not have to be completely filled.
  2. White space is your friend. A text-heavy letter, no matter how well written, will not be successful in most cases.
  3. The type should be no smaller than 14-points.  You can even use some 16-point or larger text for emphasis.
  4. Emphasis is your friend. Selectively use larger text,  bolding,  italics, and highlighting,  but be thoughtful about the use.  
  5. Finally, remember that the prospective donor does not know your organization as well as you do. So, write at a sixth or seventh-grade level. Tell a SINGLE story. Yes, your organization has a lot of cool stuff, but your reader only cares about some of the things you are doing. Pick a single story with a positive angle.

It is imperative that you solicit donors regularly with pieces that are similar in appearance.

Finally, your reply device should be the most important part of the mailing. It should include multiple ways for people to donate. I am a great believer in Business Reply Mail envelopes. This type does not require the donor to hunt around their home or briefcase for a postage stamp. They simply write a check or add their Credit card info and drop it in the mail. 

Also, the device should include a URL that takes donors directly to a donation page. This is not the time for them to browse your website. Lastly, QR codes have become very popular, and people of a certain generation use them regularly. 

If you use a curtest envelope, one that requires hunting for a stamp, consider putting a stamp on your most important donors. This will help them send you money. Isn't that the goal.?

Those are the basics. Next month, we will discuss what goes into writing the letter "ASK STRINGS," the importance of the outside envelope, and how to post the letter once it is complete.


Since the last post, there has been a good deal of responses and conversation concerning the previous blog. So, call me a dog with a bone, but it is hard to get past the number of conference sessions and webinars encouraging "LOVE" language to our donors. Again, we should respect, admire, and be grateful to everyone who donates, no matter the amount.

Fundraisers work hard for our supporters to know how much they mean to us with a robust stewardship program that includes letters, emails, phone calls, and handwritten notes. All depending on the level of their gift and our understanding of their ability to support the organization. But do we "LOVE" them? When it comes right down to it, we have a transactional relationship that includes not just a mug or canvas bag. Both the fundraiser and the organization have a connection to each and every donor. We try to understand why they give and what giving means to them. We must remain donor-centric.

We need to continue to look at our jobs through a trauma-informed lens. We have to ask if there is a chance of doing some harm either to ourselves or to the donor. Neither of us deserves that, especially when it is unnecessary to do our jobs successfully.

For more information on "LOVE" language, why it isn't necessary, and a mental health professional's view, see our last thoughtful post on trauma-informed fundraising. You can find it below below, or at

This "bone" needs to continue to be shaken because fundraisers and donors deserve honest, thoughtful, and mentally healthy jobs and donor relationships. Let's continue to choose to prioritize authentic, thoughtful, mindfulness relationships with donors.


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