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Complete guide to writing donation letters (free templates!)

Everything you need to know about what to include in a donation request letter, including a variety of examples, best practices, and free donation letter templates.

Anna Bean
January 4, 2023
June 12, 2020
Nerd Mr Butter

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A donation request letter is one of the most effective tools you can use to raise money and rally support for your cause. But how do you make sure your donation request letter results in hitting your fundraising goal rather than falling short? It’s all about making strategic decisions on what to include in the letter.

Let’s review the essentials for writing donation request letters for individuals and corporations alike, so that your next appeal is met with enthusiasm and support. We’ll cover: 

Donation request letter 101

<span id="overview"></span>Before we jump into how to write your donation request letter, you need to know how it works. Here’s your crash course on donation request letters: Learn what a donation request letter is, why they’re so effective, and more. 

🤔 What it is: Viewed as a formal solicitation for money or in-kind donations, donation request letters are a straightforward way to ask friends, family, places of employment, or businesses to support a nonprofit, school, club, or other cause. 

👀 What it looks like: Typically one or two pages long, donation request letters allow you to connect with your potential donor, spell out your fundraising needs, and describe the benefits of donating—all in one nice, neat package. You can send your request via direct mail, email, or both. 

💌 Who can send: All kinds of groups write donation letters, from churches sending out their annual fundraising plea to sports teams requesting corporate sponsorship from local business owners. You can use a donation request letter to notify supporters of a fundraising event, ask for online donations, or build a donor base for an upcoming program activity.

⭐ Benefits of sending: Although more formal than other kinds of fundraising requests like an in-person chat or a Facebook post, donation letters still pack a punch. Even better, donors can take their time considering your message and ask. They don’t feel put on the spot like they might with an in-person or phone donation request. Just don’t forget to follow up!  

When to send a letter asking for donations

<span id="when"></span>You can write a donation request letter to raise money, build awareness, or request items for a silent auction or fundraising event. More popular corporate sponsors get an incredibly high volume of requests for donations. In these instances, they'll post an online form on their website, where you will fill out predetermined fields. Other times, you’ll build your donation request from scratch—kind of like a cold call. 

Here are a few examples of when to send a donation request:

  • Online auctions 🎰  Email a local resort manager asking them to donate a high-ticket auction item your nonprofit can auction off, like a two-night stay in their luxury suite. 
  • Fundraising events 🎭  Ask a major league soccer team if you can host a charitable obstacle course race in their stadium.
  • Charity sporting events🏌 Write to several local cafes and coffee shops to ask if they'll contribute gift cards to place in goodie bags for your charity golf tournament.
  • Sponsorship tents 🎪  Host a local 5K run/walk to raise awareness for prostate cancer, and ask the local shoe store to sponsor a tent
  • Friends and family recruitment 👪  Each year, you donate money to your local elementary school. Send a donation request to your family and friends, urging them to support the cause with you.
  • Ticket donations 💸  Your brother-in-law is a hockey season ticket holder, so you ask if he'll contribute two tickets to auction off at your annual fundraiser.
  • Annual galas 💃  Plan a gala to raise money for your organization, and ask a local sports team to donate memorabilia for a raffle prize.

How to write a strong donation request letter

<span id="how"></span>Every fundraising appeal will sound slightly different, but the building blocks of an effective donation request letter are always the same. 

Your letter should include the following elements:

  • An eye-catching header 🌈  Feature your organization or campaign name prominently, ideally with a high-resolution version of your logo.
  • Your contact information 📱 At a minimum, you should include the address and phone number of your organization. We highly recommend including your website, email address, and personal contact name, too. This is how potential donors will follow up and verify that you’re a legitimate person or group, so triple-check that all your info is accurate!
  • An appropriate greeting 👋  For general requests to prospective donors, a friendly but professional opening is great, like “Dear Amanni,” or simply “Hello, Marcus.” For corporate requests, opt for a more formal salutation like “Dear Mr. Weaver.” If you’re sending it to your grandfather, skip the “Dear sir,” and go with your favorite nickname for pops instead.
  • Any connections you have 🔗 If you’re reaching out to a previous donor, acknowledge the impact they’ve already made through previous donations last year or last month. If you’re writing to someone new, explain how you’re connected and tell your story. If you’re working with a database of thousands of donors, segment them into similar profiles. This enables you to reach out to similar groups with a personalized peice without having to craft thousands of different letters.
  • Your appeal 🙏 Your fundraising appeal is the bulk of your letter, but it should be brief. You need to capture your reader’s attention, clarify why you’re reaching out, and build up to your call to action (i.e., the actual request for a donation). Paint a picture with success stories, compelling facts, testimonials, and more.
  • The main call to action 👈  Once your reader understands what’s at stake, it’s time to make your ask. It may be financial support, free services, in-kind donations, or other charitable donations. Ensure your request is specific, clear, and easy to act on, and include instructions on how to take the next step. 
  • Additional information 📄  Include any relevant campaign perks or info, like a limited-time matching gift offer or other ways to support your cause. Charitable organizations might want to highlight tax benefits, for instance.
  • A sign-off 🙏  End the letter by extending your gratitude and appreciation for their time and emphasizing the opportunity to be a part of the difference your group is making in your community. Sign the letter with an officer or employee’s name rather than just the title of your cause. This makes the letter more personal and helps to build a relationship.

10 best practices for writing an attention-getting appeal

<span id="bestpractices"></span>Now, let’s dive deeper into what makes a donation letter go from good to great!

Whether you start from scratch or build off a template (we’ve got several below), these donation request letter best practices will help your fundraising appeal stand out from the pack.

1. Know who you’re writing to 👀

Start by figuring out who your audience is. If you're not sure who to address your letter to, do some research. Find out who the head of the agency is by visiting the company’s website. Most sites have an “about us” section that you can peruse to identify the best points of contact. 

Try to address your donation request letter to decision-makers like the executive director rather than the office manager. If you can’t find the team leads on the company website, check their social media pages to find the right contacts.

⭐ Pro tip: Avoid using general emails that start with “info@” and find personal emails to send your letter to. Oftentimes, these emails flag messages as spam, so your potential donor may never see your message.

2. Personalize 🙋🏽‍♀️

You can use a template to create a donation request, but you should always—we repeat, always—personalize it. Address your letter to an individual, avoiding generic phrases like "To whom it may concern." If you’re sending the letter by email, include the person’s name or company in the subject line. 

Whenever possible, open with a personal statement to the individual, showing you did your research or remember them from a previous event. We don’t mean you need to write a unique message for every single potential donor and fundraising campaign. However, if you’re writing to a large number of prospects, you should research your target audiences, segment them into groups, and change up pieces of your message based on your findings. 

Tone is key to personalization. If you’re writing a corporate appeal letter, you’ll want the tone to be more formal. If you’re reaching out to friends, family, and other peers with a personal appeal letter, you can be more informal. If you use the wrong tone, you’ll alienate some donors, while others will ignore your request altogether.

3. Put the donor in the driver’s seat 🚗

Once you know who you’re writing to, figure out what drives them. This is key to creating an emotional appeal that will convince them to give to your cause. Sometimes you’ll need to use an emotional approach, while other times you’ll need to focus on urgency and speed. Play to the driving factor behind your target audience’s motives. 

People are more likely to give to causes that mean the most to them, so mentioning a shared interest or history, if relevant, will increase the chances of receiving a donation. Center your letter on how the donor’s actions will make a difference to your cause, using pronouns like “you” and “your” to help paint a picture of how they’re included in your mission and impact.

4. Deliver an emotional yet focused appeal 💓

When telling your organization’s story, it’s best if you can highlight a specific person or group of people and the impact your organization has had on their life.

If you’re sending the message via email, adding images, GIFs, or even a short video can help bring your cause to life and make it real for your potential donor. 

5. Emphasize specific benefits of donating 🎁

What’s in it for your donors? Many act like business owners and investors when it comes to giving their money away. They want to know that each dollar is going to be used strategically, turned into something valuable, and produce a return on investment. 

Explain the impact of each gift or commitment level in your appeal letter, describing both the tangible benefits (e.g., funding virtual arts for 25 program beneficiaries) and intangible benefits (e.g., earning goodwill in the community) of donating to your fundraising efforts.

This can work wonders—in fact, the folks at NextAfter found that written stories explaining the value of donating increased donations by 560%! 🤯 

⭐ Pro tip: After the campaign is over, evaluate to what extent you accomplished your goals or provided the benefits you articulated for donors. If so, highlight each win in your donation thank-you letters.

6. Lean into urgency ⚡

With so many demands on time and money, some letter recipients—corporations in particular—need to feel a sense of urgency to contribute. 

You can convey urgency by placing a deadline for donations or explaining that the building they’re sponsoring, for example, a temple or a community organizing center, needs to be finished by a certain date.

You can also make incentives to donate early by offering to match donations for the first week of the campaign. Action words like “change,” “fight,” and “act” can also help.

7. Be direct and concise 📝

Before you start writing, ask yourself, “What is the goal of this request letter?” Are you challenging them to give through a team fundraiser? Asking them to donate items for a silent auction? Inviting them to an upcoming fundraising event? Make the main goal clear in the first few sentences of the letter. 

Ensure your fundraising needs and donation request are both clear and specific. For instance, if you want a local business to cover the costs of food and drink for 100 people at your upcoming event, explain why it’s necessary and provide a specific dollar amount. 

8. Make it easy to give 🙌

If you're emailing a donation request letter, make sure it only takes one or two clicks for the person to contribute. According to experts, orange and green donate buttons perform best, so take that into consideration as you build your email. 

For direct mail letters, make sure the donation form is easy to fill out or list the donation website in bold. Include a prepaid envelope and suggest donation amounts, so the donor doesn’t have to make any decision other than “yes.” Don’t give the donor too many options; this can cause analysis paralysis—when a donor is simply so overwhelmed with choices that they choose to do nothing instead.

9. Know when to send 📮

You can send fundraising appeals and sponsorship letters any time you want, but these kinds of requests tend to be most successful when supporters are in a giving mood, like around the holidays, or when a big story in the news elevates your issue for the public.  

Understanding how your target donors make decisions can also inform when you send fundraising appeal letters. That’s where fundraising platforms come in, allowing you to fundraise smarter through a donor database and trackable links. You can see when and how people donate money and adjust your appeals letter schedule and content to best suit your potential donors. 

If you’re sending a donor letter for a campaign, send the first message a few days before the campaign is slated to begin. Send a follow-up letter at the halfway point and a final letter a day or two before the campaign ends.

10. Take the next step 👈

So you’ve sent your donation request letter, and you’re on pins and needles waiting for a response. Don’t just sit there and twiddle your thumbs—the job’s not done yet! 

Send follow-up emails and calls to encourage people who haven’t made a donation yet to get involved. And, of course, don’t forget to send thank-you letters to all your donors, so they know how much you appreciate their support.

Raise more funds with these donation letter examples and templates

<span id="templates"></span>Trying to write an effective donation request letter can leave even the most experienced fundraisers with writer’s block. If it feels like there’s too much to communicate, or you’ve struggled to find the right combination of words to entice your donors, you’re not alone! 

We’ve got five different templates to help jumpstart your outreach efforts. You can print and mail your letter on your organization's letterhead, email it to the individual, or submit it via a donation request form. 

Make requesting donations easy with Givebutter

Your donation request letters help drive awareness, sponsorships, and monetary contributions toward your campaign. 

When you integrate your donation solicitation efforts with a platform like Givebutter, you can send emails and text messages, collect funds with embeddable forms and donate buttons, manage events and auctions, and track all of your donors and contributions all in one place—all for free

Ready to raise more for your cause? Get started and create your free Givebutter account today! 💛

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