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It's Time to Write Your Annual Appeal

Can you feel it?! Fall temperatures are starting to make an appearance here in the Midwest. It’s nearing the end of the year, which means NOW is the time to write your annual appeal letter to incorporate some additional financial support to benefit your non-profit patrons! There are several key elements to writing an effective appeal letter. No idea where to start? Leave it to the professionals to help you with a few tips!

Identify a specific need that your non-profit may identify for an end of year appeal. For example - You may be looking to expand your youth services area with more comfortable seating. Make your request clear and specific, focused on an investment for the building structure or program improvements.

  • While writing your letter, make sure a sense of importance and urgency is conveyed. Try something like this: “Our non-profit changes lives every day! Here is how we are looking at changing our non-profit for YOU!”

  • Provide a deadline of when you are making the change. Without a date, donors may think, “I’ll donate to this next month” and then forget altogether. Create urgency!

  • Customize the letter with your organizational branding and style, but remember you’re writing to the donor. Make it about them! Try statements like, “Because of your generous donations…” or “This was all made possible because of people like you!”

  • Begin your letter with a recap of the past year and all of the good charitable work that you’ve done. We know that you have great stories to tell of your non-profit organization, so here is your chance! Tell a story about the impact that you’re making. It can be big picture or a specific scenario. No need to share names of individuals, it’s fine to keep it anonymous.

  • It is our recommendation that the letter is written by one or two volunteers, not several people, or by many departments. It should flow naturally and be focused on the matter at hand. By getting too many individuals involved, the topic can get lost and the focus becomes blurry.

  • Remember that most donors are motivated by emotion. Appeal to both their head and heart. Write your letter with passion, appealing to your donor’s sense of compassion and empathy. Allow them to be a hero! Provide the problem/need and give them the chance to help make the difference!

  • Remind donor’s that their gift is tax deductible. You can use this statement: “Gifts to nonprofits are tax deductible due to their connection to municipalities under section 170 © (1) of the Internal Revenue Code if made for a public purpose.”

  • Keep your reader intrigued by posing questions throughout, or using phrases like, “imagine this or that…”

  • Keep it professional - not a “dear friend” letter. Always use the name of the non-profit patron and utilize a mail merge to ensure their informal name will appear on the letter and their formal name on the outside of the envelope.

  • If necessary, involve a fundraising professional and ask questions. Then, take their advice!!

  • As you finish your letter, give thanks to your donors for their generous and continued support and remind them of the difference they are making. Restate your need, being direct but polite. “Please donate today to put a roof over a family’s head.” Finally, try closing out your letter with a powerful statement, quote, or statistic.

We hope these helpful tips come in handy as you’re beginning to draft your end of year appeal letter! Come back next week for part two of this blog where we will provide a broken down month-by-month checklist for following through with your annual appeal letter.

As always, please reach out to Ellen Hongerholt ( with any questions you may have or if we can help your non-profit in any way. We’d love to connect!

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