Ah, the Power of the Pen!

As fundraisers, we write a lot of letters. Whether we’re asking for support, acknowledging a generous contribution or cultivating donors by sharing the story of someone we’ve helped, we’re constantly drafting letter copy.  

So to share our copy expertise with you, here are five questions to ask yourself to make sure your letter copy is the best it can be:

Does my letter have a strong lead?

If the opening of your letter does not immediately engage you, find another lead! Sometimes a better opening can be found a few paragraphs into the copy. Your opening should draw the reader in right away and make them want to keep reading.

Examples: “I wish you could have been with me when…”  “Letters like this can break your heart, but we get them all the time…” (when using a note from a meal recipient)

Is my letter easy to read?

It should be! Many organizations want their letters to sound “smart” but an 8th grade reading level is what you are going for. It’s easy to read, presents your case clearly and compellingly and doesn’t make the reader work too hard to understand it. You’ll also want to avoid complicated words or jargon. “Shelf-stable” and “premature institutionalization” have no place in a good fundraising letter.

Does my letter sound as if it has been written from one person to another?

Imagine writing to one particular person — your mother or your grandmother, for example. Address the letter to this individual and avoid making it sound like the donor is part of a group. Using phrases like “I’m writing to you today…” is more impactful than “I’m writing to donors like you.”

Examples: “You see, without your help…” “And that’s where you come in…”

Does it look like a letter?

You want your letter to look real and personal. It should be formatted like a good old-fashioned letter. Asking for money is a personal conversation, so the letter should look personal — indent paragraphs, use short paragraphs and leave out the photos. And, although it may appear more official, do not include your board of directors on the letterhead — it takes away from the personal nature of your correspondence.

Does my copy sing?

Take a minute to read your letter out loud. Yes, it’s an extra step, but one that is well worth your time. Do you find yourself stumbling over any parts of it? Does it flow? When you read it out loud, you’re more likely to catch clunky phrasing or awkward construction. If you do, edit it out!

Download the complete copywriting checklist. Happy writing!