Simple Solicitation Letters

by Jason Dick · 2 comments

Giving should be simple. How long was your last solicitation letter? Half a page, two pages? How many stories did you tell? How many statistics from your organization did you quote? If you are like many non-profits today you probably said, “my letter was a page and a half, I told the donor all about my administrative rate, why they should give, how it will help them, what the program they are giving to is, what the program does, where their money went, where there money will go, how many people we serve, etc.” I think you are getting the point.

Information should be transparent and easy to find. You cannot say everything in one solicitation or thank you letter. Your letters should be under a page and describe what you are asking your donor for and why. Yes, there are other things you need to include, but do not dilute the point (or ask) of the letter with too much information.

A solicitation letter should have three things in it:
1. What is it that you are asking for (ie. cash gift of $20,000, auction item)? Be specific donors will often give no more than you ask from them. But will often give more than they intend to if you ask for a reasonable and specific amount (make sure to have your contact information and a response envelope).
2. Why you are asking for it? This is a really good place to summarize your mission or tell a story about your organization (make sure that your organizations name is in the letter).
3. Where the money will be going? This should be very obvious but sometimes it isn’t see my post, Broad and Transparent Giving.

Please leave a comment with tips you have on writing a good solicitation or thank you letter. A key competent to a good solicitation letter is a prompt follow up call. Make sure that you have already set aside time in a week or so to follow up with the individuals/businesses that you are soliciting.

Solicitation Letters & Direct Mail:

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Leo Notenboom January 9, 2008 at 5:22 pm

“… do not dilute the point (or ask) of the letter with too
much information.”

I think you hit on an extremely important point.

As the recipient of (too?) many solicitations, one of the
fastest ways to lose my attention is to overwhelm me with
material. It absolutely amazes (and frustrates) me how
many good organizations act like they’ve got this
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in front of my
eyeballs and bombard me with information.

I’ll be honest: I’m lazy. If you can’t get your point across
in a few paragraphs on a single page, I’m gone.

Too many organizations use every solicitation as an
introduction to the organization. That’s just WRONG. If I
don’t know you, then build the relationship before you ask.
Once you’re certain that there is a relationship, then you
don’t need to repeat everything I already know about your
organization. Tell me what you need, and why you need it.
It’s that simple. If I already know your organization, then
you’ve made an appropriate ask, and it’s in my hands now. If
I *don’t* know your organization, (and by “know” I really
mean “have a relationship with”) then you shouldn’t be
asking. Yet.

People are more pressed for time than ever. They’ll give it
(and more) to those organizations with which they feel they
have some kind of a relationship. But you *must* be
respectful of those time constraints, and not force them to
read a long and, for them, repetitive manuscript every time.

As an aside: I *personally* don’t need to be told a story. I
actually find it wasteful of my time if I’m required to slog
through yet another story before you make your point. If I
know your organization and what it does, if we have that
relationship, the story is completely redundant. You’ve
probably already told me dozens. On the other hand I know
that stories apparently work for many people. So I’d
encourage using some way to make that story optional *to me*
- be it a sidebar, or an insert or whatever – something that
doesn’t force my attention and time away from the message
you’re really attempting to deliver.



Elain Evans January 10, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Don’t forget how a DM letter is read.. Signatory, PS then the opener. Think about this the next time you read a letter from an unknown source. It is true. Don’t under estimate who signs your letter and make sure your PS reflects letter content and isn’t wasted.

Leo I think you are wrong about a story. It is so important to a good letter. Maybe your organizations just haven’t told you a story that connected with you. That’s the whole point.. to make you feel something. Not just telling a story for the sake of telling a story but one that encompasses why your organization does the work it does and why you should get involved. It’s tough to get great stories but they are worth digging for and writing into your letter.


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