Is there really such a thing as a one size fits all, donation request letter template?  Not really. Every cause, organization and audience is different.  The letter that your group sends to prospective donors should be tailored to your own circumstances and to the interest of the reader.

On the other hand, I also know the reality of being charged with the task of writing a donation letter.  Where do you start?  What should be included in the letter?  It can be a tough assignment.  While the largest nonprofits hire professional writers and consultants, I would guess that the majority of organizations must write these letters themselves, in addition to their other duties.  A template of some sort will help you get started.

Sections that need to be included in every donation request letter

There are certain elements that should be included in every fundraising letter.  Some of the sections listed below might seem obvious, but I have read quite a few letters that mistakenly leave out an important point.

Here are the 12 sections of a letter, from top of the page to the bottom:

1. Name of Organization & Contact Information – It should be perfectly clear what organization is sending the letter.  You can print your letter on the organization’s letterhead or paper that was printed just for this particular letter appeal.   Either way make sure that your organization’s name, its logo, address, phone number and website address are included.

2. Date – It is important to include the date of the mailing.  If you are using bulk mail, be aware of US postal regulations that require the date on the letter be the same as the mailing date.  If you are unsure of what day the letters will actually go to the post office, just include the month and year.  This way as long as you mail during the month the letter will still be in compliance with US Postal requirements.

3. Address of Donor -  Traditionally an “inside address” (the address where the letter will be delivered to) was standard on all business correspondence.  This is not quite as strictly followed today.  Many letters leave off this piece of information.  However including the recipient’s address on the letter itself can be an advantage when it comes to mailing.  By using envelopes with see through windows it can make the task of stuffing the envelopes faster and easier.

4. Salutation – Going through my continually growing stack of letters that I get from non-profits, I am surprised to see so many organizations still using “Dear Friend” instead of the recipient’s name.  It is much more personal and appealing to the reader to get a letter address to them by name. Depending on the audience you may wish to use last names only or first names, i.e. Dear Mrs. Smith, or Dear Jane.  Whether you are using a printing company, mail house or printing the letters yourself, a mail merge can be used to automatically insert the names.

5. Your Story -  The components in 5-7 all reside in what is traditionally called the body of the letter.  This is the core section where you strive to connect with the reader, show them why the cause matters and what benefits they gain by donating.  In other words, what difference will their contribution make?

The first paragraph of the letter can be the most difficult to write.  Avoid the temptation to start out talking about your organization or its mission statement.  Instead write a short introductory paragraph using some of these attention getting openings for fundraising letters and/or go straight into telling a compelling story. (see below)

Organizations who have multiple project areas may be inclined to include information about everything they do in one letter.  However, this can overwhelm the reader. Instead focus the letter on a particular project or theme.  One of the most successful ways to get your message across is to describe a story of a specific person or situation that your charity has helped. Always remember to include stories that will engage the reader, not just show off accomplishments.

6. Ask for a donation – Sending a donation request letter is for nothing if you do not ASK for a financial gift.  Encourage the reader to make a donation by making it clear what you are asking for and how to respond.  Include a reply envelope to make it even easier for them to respond.

7. Say thanks – Show gratitude in advance of the reader making a donation.  If they have given in the past acknowledge how their previous contributions have helped make a difference in the cause.

8. Closing – Traditional closings such as “Sincerely” or “Kind regards” are acceptable, but you may find other closings that would fit your situation well.

9. Signature – Each letter should be hand signed individually, or a scanned image of the signature inserted into the document before printing.  Do not use a script font instead of a signature and do not leave the signature area blank.

Christo Rey Letter10. Name – Beneath the signature spell out the full name of the person the letter is from.

11. Title – Don’t assume that your readers know who this sender is.  Even if you are sending to previous donors, include their full title.

12. P.S. Statement - Reinforce the message with a PS statement.  You may wish to state the date the donation needs to be in by or reference the story or project mentioned earlier in the letter.

An example of a letter that utilizes all of these 12 elements is a special appeal letter for Christo Rey High School in Sacramento.  You can also view a larger version here.

While there are likely many needs at such a school, the letter focuses on one theme, the need for textbooks.  The reader is drawn in to the story through the colorful description of the classroom environment and through the use of quotations from actual students.  The reader may imagine in his or her mind what it would be like to try to learn without books.

The suggested donations are tied to something tangible, the number of books that can be purchased.

The letter closes appropriately by thanking the reader in advance for making a contribution.   It ends with a postscript (PS) statement.   If I were writing this letter I would have made the PS reference something talked about earlier in the letter.  This way, if someone is just skimming and reads the PS they may go back tot he top to see what you are talking about.  For example, “Your financial gift will help Rosa and students like her excell in the classroom by having their own textbooks.”

So what kind of impact does a letter like this have? Kimberley J. Satterwhite, the school’s Annual Fund Coordinator, reported that the letter raised $45,572.42! By sending out 3200 letters to a highly targeted list (this is a concept we cover in the book) they got a resulting 2.8% response rate and average gift size of $551.53.

By the way, this is just one of the letters that is included in the all new 7 Essential Steps to Raising Money by Mail.

Recommended Reading:

Twitter for Non-profits and Fundraising
Call Foundations First: Win More Grants!
Fundraising Job Opportunity: Do You Have What It Takes?
A Checklist for Those Worried about the Strength of their Non-Profit
5 Reasons You Should Collaborate with Another Non-profit in 2011- Part I
5 Reasons You Should Collaborate with Another Non-profit in 2011- Part II
7 Ways to Maximize Your Mini-Fundraiser Earnings
What’s a Non-profit to do When a Tsunami Strikes a World Away?
8 Things to Admire about Jimmy Wales’ Appeal Letter for Wikipedia
How Do You Raise Money for a Non-profit that Caters to the Well-to-Do?
15 Things to Do Right After Your Group Gets Some Good Press

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Posted on 01 December 2008

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39 Comments For This Post

  1. Sandy Rees says:

    Great template Sandra!

    As a donor, I would MUCH rather read a compelling story about someone your organization has helped than anything. It’s interesting and I like reading about success stories.

    As a fundraising letter writer, I would rather start a letter with a story and build my case around it. Letters seem to flow well when I do that.

  2. Stenly says:

    Great!!! This really help me a lot.

  3. Mari says:

    Thank you. I really like your sequential organized checklist. You’ve provided some excellent advice, and the inclusion of an example letter is very helpful.

  4. becca says:

    This really helped me! Thank you so much for writing this. But when i tried to get the letter by Christo Rey. I think that would really help.

    Thanks again, An intrested student

  5. mary says:

    When you make a donation and would like to provide a letter with the donation you are giving what should you say?

  6. Sandra Sims says:

    Becca, You can view the letter by Christo Rey Here:
    http://stepbystepfundraising.com//images/christo-rey-final-image-numbered.jpg

    It is also included in the 7 Essential Steps to Raising Money by Mail book:
    http://stepbystepfundraising.com/products/sample-fundraising-letters-book/

  7. Yvonne says:

    I am interested in makeing a donation to an organization and would like to provide a letter with the donation. Do you have a template for such a letter that you would be willing to share?

  8. Sandra Sims says:

    Yvonne, I don’t have a template for such a letter. Just a short note telling them why you are making a donation if it is something close to your heart, they would appreciate it. If you are wanting your donation to go to a specific fund just say that in the letter and note it on the check.

  9. Roy says:

    Wow this is a great list, very important things
    thank you, i learned alot there…

  10. Hope says:

    Does any one know how to write a Donation Letter requesting itmes for church.
    Like for example the sanctuary its for church decoration.

    How do I write a letter and who can help me?

  11. jo sheffield says:

    I need to introduce my daycare program to a church do you have a letter for that and ask for a donation at the same time

  12. Adriana says:

    Hi, I’m a volunteer at a church for five years, into my service is working with youth. This year I planning to go to Kansas to a seminar relating to my service in the church; The church helped with the flight ticket, another institution help me with the room and I am waiting a response from the institute that performed the event for a discount as the cost of the seminar
    I want to send thank you letters each of them for they help. Could you help me with the letters?
    Tthanks a lot

    Adriana

  13. Rajan says:

    Hi, the tips for fund raising should be very helpfull. I am practicing Doctor in Central part of India…Critical care physician by profession and thus striving to save Lives of many critically ill patient since last 15 years. However i intend to do it on largher scale by coming up with 100 bed Critical Care and Emergency centre, with special care facilities for Geriatric and Obstetric population.
    Please suggest the ways.

  14. Jen says:

    Do you have any tips on writing donations request follow-up letters? Some of the request letters I have written for auction items have not been responded to and they specifically ask that you do not call the store. I would like to at least follow up via mail since they say you will recieve a response with in 6-8 weeks and it has been 12 weeks. Thanks!

  15. B. A SHAKIR says:

    Thanks for given tips.
    Please send a few sample letters of fundraising for disabled people.
    Thanks again,
    B.A SHAKIR
    http://WWW.spiritpk.com

  16. R Lincoln says:

    I have been trying unsuccessfully for a year to raise funds for a service dog for my young son via donation request letters. I’ve sent hundreds of letters. The average response is they don’t help individuals – only groups. My donation request would go directly to a non-profit organization that raises and trains the dogs. HELP!

  17. anne says:

    I coordinate a charity organisation speacilising with Spinal Cord Injuries. We assist families and carers with much needed equipments to make looking after SCI easy at home.

    We would like to acquire much needed equipment fom a warehouse that stores this items.

    Pl can you help me to write – up a letter seeking them to donate some of equipment

  18. Adriana U says:

    I have a question, on number 5 you said to start with a story instead of talking about our organization, but what happens when our organization is new and nobody knows anything about it and we don´t have a story to tell yet.

  19. Sandra Sims says:

    Even if you are a new organization, surely there are stories about the people you are helping. If there were no stories, then you would not be forming the organization. ;) You could also tell the story of your founder(s), why you are starting the organization and your vision for the future. But telling one story about one situation where you have been effective is usually best.

  20. Dillen McCann says:

    Do you have any type of template to ask for a donation from something like the American Legion Assosiciation? We have a Non-profit organization (JROTC) and they offered $500 dollars last year but seeing as how our program had just started and we were trying to accomplish as much as possible on our own, we turned down the offer and thanked them. This year we could highly use the help.

  21. John Viakondo says:

    We have a welfare organization in Africa(Namibia) in Okakarara. A small town with least development.we would love to help the elders and vonarable children but due to lack of fund to provite lunch and clothers it give us difficult time to run the organization. Please how far any volinteer who can help us with money and Foot. We are proviting services for almost 50 poeples in Okakarara (Namibia).

  22. Kimberly A Whitmore says:

    This information is extremely beneficail Thank You S Much.

  23. Steve says:

    Thanks for such an amazing resource, it is hard to know where to start some times when raising funds. Really great templates and a wonderful explanation of each piece.

  24. Wendy Gant says:

    the organization that I’m in have started a new department,(diabetes department) I am ask to raises money to help find a cure for diabetes. I am having a hard time writing a donation letter. please if you can HELP! I am ready to start raising for the department but can’t get started without a letter.

  25. Anietie Affiah says:

    I want a letter soliciting for fund from individual or organization to buy a land for our church.

  26. Machla says:

    Hi, I would like to know if a donation letter must be addressed directly to the CEO,the financial chief or the president of the company. We have spent countless time preparing our donation request letter and they are finally ready to go out, as soon as we can get this question answered, they will go out next day. Than you

  27. Shahid says:

    Great!!! This really help me

  28. Rev.Dr.B.Yovan says:

    We have a Bethany Educational Charitable Trust , with least development.we would love to help the elders and vonarable children but due to lack of fund to provite lunch and cloth,schoolbooks,Fees it give us difficult time to run the organization. Please how far any volinteer who can help us with money . We are proviting services for almost 110 poeples ,widows,oldage people medical support in k.g.f, south india

  29. tope says:

    pls i want to write for financial assistance letter for a church for harvest celebration

  30. kiuba A says:

    Iam really impressed with such akind of heart, you had to share with us such important information without hesitation.It has helped me alot and iam switching on to write to donars to help us out with the problems our organisation catering for children who are mulnurished in our area to get good health.

  31. chitaranjan bibhar says:

    I am new hear and am very excited to use this for our organization,Mother Teresa Kalyan Sangha(MTKS) we fight for underprivileged children and women for sustanble growth in livelihood,Thanks

  32. blaze says:

    its a simple and useful leadway u offered us..thanxx

  33. Anna says:

    My 16 year old has a business license for a film company. She needs money to purchase equipment. She wants to use her company to help her generation ( High school and Jr. High and all youth to evaluate their lives and choices. She is working on a documentary film about:
    I was under the age of 18 when my choice’s lead to my death.
    Her cousin died at age 16 by drinking to much. Her 14 year old friend got shot to death because of gang violence. She is not a non profit. How should she approach the donor for money?

  34. Robert says:

    Thank you very much. This sample will help me to write mine. Keep up the good work.

  35. Vanessa Farmer says:

    Thank you for some great info to get me started. I will let you know how it goes! Am praying hard about funding and just who to send the letters to….

  36. Kenedy sangwe says:

    This is just like what am looking for. Am about sending out an appeal for help letter for a bridge that need to be constructed across the Yaya Water Fall, Manjom Quarter, Bamunkumbit – North West Region, Cameroon. Because across the river, initially it was a farm land but now many guys from this community have started construction their homes here but they only use a fallen tree that is placed across the river to reach the other end of the land. If interested to help. Send email to macudausa@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and thanks for the guide.

  37. Georgette Nthenya says:

    I lost my baby, I got a mis courage when I was seven months pregnant due to rejection and stress from my fiancé . I have passion for children , I saw a girl who lost her baby through the Same situation and it really hurts me . I own a beauty saloon and I allow less privileged young women in for training on how to make hair parking treatments ,pleating, manicure , pedicure , scrubbing .and every day befor we start work I talk to them on how to over come rejection stress . Help me to write a latter to get a Donna who can help me buy equipment and materials to help this women earn a leaving and the same time to give them knowledge on how to deal with stress and save that unborn baby. I wish to do this in the entire country Nairobi , Kenya

  38. Rebecca Nakanwagi says:

    Dear Sir, my name is Rebecca Nakanwagi from Rubaga Division Disabled Association, Uganda Africa. Sir in our disability community, (Rubaga Division Disabled Association RUDDA) I have realized the suffering of disabled women movement with their children during working time. These women have problems in walking with the children, they can’t carry children at their back as some of these women move by crawling while others use wheel chairs. when it rains really ladies with their children suffer a lot. These ladies don’t have proper working places to keep these children as most of them work in open market places which is not convenient to the children.

    On realizing all the suffering of my fellow disabled women and their children am trying to put up a day care centers to reduce these people’s suffering. I want to get a home for the day care and am looking for your sponsorship in doing this, my address is rubagadivision@yahoo.co.uk. thanks for being there for us. Rebecca

  39. Diana says:

    Please i have been awarded a scholarship to attend a training program in us and i want to write a letter to raise funds but i don’t know how go about it even if i use your steps. i would love to get a templete from you as soon as possible.


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