Three tips for a better letter

When the Target Marketing enewsletter shows up in my inbox, I almost always take a minute to peak at it. The articles are informative and fun — Melissa Ward’s videos crack me up every time. Thanks Melissa. This week’s edition of the newsletter included a great article from Alan Rosenspan, with 15 quick ideas for a better letter.  You can read the full list for yourself but here are my favorite three.

#1: Put the Benefits in the Margin. I like this one because it reminds us to focus on talking about the benefits to the reader in our letters. Whether you put them in the margin, the p.s. or within the letter, the most important thing is that you remember to ask the question, “how does the donor benefit?” In nonprofit fundraising, we often don’t have tangible benefits like products do, but we offer our donors lots of benefits. Here are just a few: the chance to feel good about themselves, to express their values in the world, to align themselves with people they respect, to make a difference or solve a problem.

#5: Try an unusual salutation. Rosenspan shares an example from an antique magazine that instead of “Dear Friend” opened their letter with, “Dear lover of beautiful things.”  I like it because it’s a way to make your letter feel more relevant to the reader even though it’s not personalized with their name. Here are a few more ideas to get your juices flowing on creative salutations for your organization. Dear citizen of planet earth for an environmental organization,  Dear lover of words for a library, Dear health enthusiast for a hospital or disease charity.

And finally, #15: Use short words and simple language. I love Alan’s reasons on this one that I’m just going to share them verbatim:   Why? It works. It’s not that people are stupid they just don’t want to go to the effort of figuring out exactly what you mean. It’s a wonderful reminder that our donors are not studying our letters—they are too busy and have too many important things on their mind. We should make it easy for them to understand what we’re asking and to act.

These tips come just in time for all those year end fundraising letters you’ll be writing in the weeks ahead. If you need any help with brilliant letter copy, Impact’s writers are standing by.

— Kathy Swayze, CFRE

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