Letters are used almost exclusively in direct mail appeals.
- Use a conversational tone. When writing copy, think of two friends having a cup of coffee in the kitchen on a Saturday morning. One friend tells the story. Your reader isn’t really interested in statistics; “How many people we served”, “Numbers of scholarships”, “Concerts performed”. They want to know about one person or a small number of people they can relate to.
- Add a headline and a PS. You may wish to have a headline above the salutation. Almost always include at least one PS. Sometimes the only things your reader looks at are the headline and the PS. Tie the two together so the reader gets the message even if that’s all she reads.
- Tailor your copy to your audience. An audience of ex patients is different than an audience of music lovers. Education level is not important. Discuss the consequences if you don’t raise the money, but be cautious.
- Don’t be afraid of a long letter. The letter should be long enough to tell your story and not one word longer. End a page in the middle of a sentence to force the reader to continue.
- Edit ruthlessly. Don’t start your appeal with “I’m writing to you because…” Every word should have a purpose. The words “the” and “that” are usually unnecessary.
- Ask for the money!
- Consider copy on the envelope. What you say must compel the reader to open it.
- Use a live stamp. It adds legitimacy to the mail piece.
- Consider a lift note. It can reinforce your story and boost response.
- Make it easy for the reader to respond. Include a return envelope, with prepaid postage if you have the budget. Include a toll‐free phone number and a web site address where the reader can make a donation now.
- Keep your message consistent. Tie all elements of the package together.
- See what’s working. Look at the mail you get from other non profits and use the ideas you like in your own appeals.