Wednesday, February 11, 2009

5 Tips for a Successful Fundraising Letter

There are many ways to solicit donations for your event, but few are as effective as a letter. No, not an email. A letter - a real piece of paper.

There's a reason why your chapter emphasizes writing letters and getting them out early. An email will sink to the bottom of your recipient's Inbox, along with everything else they get. Your friends expect to receive email. A well-done letter is unexpected. It's a nice surprise to find in the middle of a stack of bills at the end of a long day. If it's someone you've fallen out of touch with, imagine their surprise when they see your name on that envelope. Curiosity alone will make them open it and pay attention to it.

In fact, our local chapter has an early bird letter writing special: They will pay for the postage for each participant's first 100 fundraising letters. At 42 cents for each First Class stamp, that's a $42.00 gift to you and your fundraising efforts. Unfortunately, a lot of participants skip out on writing letters, because they aren't comfortable with writing, or because they don't "have the time". In this economy, every participant should be taking the time and effort to send out all 100 letters. If your chapter's deadline has passed, ask if they can grant you a grace period of 2-3 days, and spend your weekend working through this.

Here are five tips to get the most out of your letter writing campaign:

1. Gather everything you need just once. You don't want to have to keep going back to the store for supplies. Buy the following:
  1. 100 #10 security lined envelopes (always use security lined). They're usually sold in boxes of 80, so buy 2 boxes. These are your main envelopes.
  2. 100 #6 3/4 security lined envelopes. These are your self-addressed stamped (SASE) envelopes. You will also likely need 2 boxes of these.
  3. 5 books of stamps, or 100 stamps on a roll. (Save your tongue, buy self-adhesive.) These are for your SASEs.
  4. 100 Business cards (see tip #4) either purchased online, or Avery style business cards to print on at home.
  5. 100 Note cards or sheets of note paper for your personalized notes (see tip #3).
2. Start with clean, well-organized data. We'll cover this in-depth in a future blog post, but an Excel spreadsheet is the best way to track everyone you want to contact about fundraising. Use your spreadsheet to track your letter-writing campaign.

3. Hand write a note to include with every letter! I cannot emphasize this enough. Don't shake your head at me. Don't mutter about how that's impossible. I've done it. You can do it. Don't you hate getting form letter Christmas cards, where the sender hasn't bothered to even say, "Hi Sally" or sign their name? It's rude. So is asking for money without taking the time to personally make the ask. It doesn't have to be a novel. It's a note. Nothing more. Write it on a 3x5 card. Write it on flash cards. Get fancy and print up your own postcards on your home printer with an image and a TNT logo on one side, and your website listed on the back. Use these for writing your notes.

Stuck on what to write? Don't be. Here are a few sample lines. Remember, this is a note. 3-5 sentences max, totally informal. You don't have to ask for money in the note, that's what your fundraising letter is for. The note is there to be the first thing they see when they open up the envelope, to show that you're thinking about them, and to soften the fact that you're sending them a form letter.
  • Hey Bob! So glad we've reconnected on (Facebook | LinkedIn| MySpace) and I'm thrilled to see you doing so well! Give my love to your beautiful family! - Sue
  • Hi Larry - I hope 2009 has gotten off to a great start for you. Don't be a stranger, keep in touch! Take care - Mike
  • Susan - Of all my friends, I know you understand this challenge the best, having run a marathon yourself. I hope you're doing well! Love - Amy
  • Your doctor: Dr. Wilson - Thanks for the referral last month and for all of your help this past year.
  • Your realtor: MaryBeth - We still love our house, thank you so much for helping us find it!
  • GM of your local car dealership: Dear Eric, We love our new car and your dealership's great service. Thanks for taking the time to check this out.
4. Include a business card or Moo card with your letter. You can buy them online for cheap, or if you don't have the time to wait for them to be delivered you can find several varieties of templates that you can make yourself at home. You want everyone to have a small takeaway item, separate from your letter, with your Team in Training fundraising URL on it. You can ask them to give it to a friend, or they can put it by their computer or in their wallet to remind them of where to visit your site. Use both sides, and make it beautiful if you can. If you're running in Alaska, put a gorgeous picture of Alaska on it. Give them a reason to want to look at it.

5. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your fundraising letter. Your letter should mention two ways to make a donation: your website, or via a check sent in the mail back to you using this envelope. You can expect that most people will make a donation via your website, but there may be a few holdouts who aren't comfortable with online transactions. Regardless, including a SASE with your letter says, "I'm serious enough about needing your help to invest in the stamp and envelope to get your donation back to me."

Good luck with your letters! Go Team!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I'm going to print this out and tape it to my monitor! Great tips!