[I have a gift for you at the end of this post!]

Recently, a client sent me a draft of an appeal letter his organization was about to send out. While it was well written, I could see it would not be successful. There were too many foundational mistakes that even a good writer who doesn't understand fundraising can make.

Engaging a new audience through an appeal letter presents a unique opportunity to introduce your mission and inspire action from those just learning about your cause. Here's how to craft an appeal letter that resonates with potential donors.

Understanding Your New Audience

Before you begin writing, take a moment to understand your potential donors. What are their interests? What might motivate them to support your cause? Tailoring your message to align with their values and concerns will make your appeal more compelling.

Crafting a Captivating Opening

Your opening is your first and best chance to capture the attention of potential donors. Instead of starting with statistics or general statements about your organization, lead with a narrative or question that directly engages the reader's emotions and imagination. Make them feel immediately invested in the story you're about to tell.

Telling a Story Where the Donor Is the Hero

Choose a story from your organization's work that illustrates the impact of individual support. However, this story should be framed to position the potential donor as the hero.

For example, rather than emphasizing what your organization has accomplished, focus on what could be achieved with the help of new supporters. Use phrases like, "With your support, we can…" to help them envision themselves playing a critical role in your mission.

Clearly Defining the Need and Solution

Be explicit about your organization's needs and how potential donors can be part of the solution. However, remember to keep the potential donor as the focal point—emphasize how their contribution, regardless of size, can lead to significant changes. This approach clarifies the impact of their donation and empowers them to take action.

Making a Direct and Personalized Ask

Directly ask for their support, clarifying how their donation will be used and the difference it will make. Personalize this request as much as possible, suggesting donation amounts with specific outcomes, such as "Your gift of $50 can provide…" This specificity helps potential donors understand the tangible impact of their contribution.

Expressing Gratitude and Vision for the Future

Thank every potential donor for considering support for your cause, and paint a picture of what their support can help achieve. This vision should be ambitious and inspiring, leaving the reader with a sense of hope and a desire to be part of making that vision a reality.

Using Persuasive and Inclusive Language

Employ persuasive and inclusive language, making the reader feel part of a larger community of supporters. Phrases like "Join us" or "Together, we can" reinforce the idea that their contribution is part of a collective effort to effect change.

Keeping It Personal and Authentic

Ensure your letter feels personal and sincere. If possible, address the potential donor by name and write in a tone that reflects a genuine passion for your cause. Authenticity resonates with readers and can be the deciding factor in their choice to support your organization.

Including a Clear Call to Action

Conclude with a clear, easy-to-follow call to action. Whether it's a link to donate online, a form to mail back, or an invitation to an event, make sure the next steps for them to become a hero in your story are straightforward.

Crafting an appeal letter to a new audience is an art that combines storytelling, empathy, and clarity. By making potential donors the heroes of your narrative, you engage their interest and empower them to take action, playing a pivotal role in your mission from the moment they begin reading your letter.


 P.S. I put together a sample appeal letter based on a fictitious nonprofit. You can download it for free HERE.

Digital Growth Strategies