I recently helped a friend compose a fundraising letter for an Indiegogo campaign she and her husband started. The couple is seeking $15,000 to help fund an alternative therapy they believe will help their 5 ½ -year-old son, who suffers developmental delays as a result of a brain tumor he was diagnosed with when he was 7 months old. In the first two weeks, the “Amazing Andy” campaign raised $7,000 of its $15,000 target.
Several years ago, I wrote my own fundraising letter, this time raising funds for the American Stroke Association. I surpassed my fundraising goal of $2,900 by more than $1,000 a full two months before the campaign’s deadline.
There are some key elements to writing a successful fundraising letter. Below are six that worked for me.
Every good letter expresses gratitude for what you do have. For “Amazing Andy,” we expressed gratitude that Andy has defied the odds for five years and lived. And there is gratitude for the multitude of blessings already showered on the family, which include everything from an understanding boss to unexpected financial help to a community of neighbors who showered the family with food and supplies during the most dire moments.
When I raised money for the American Stoke Association, I had two people in the forefront of my mind: My graduate school journalism instructor and my father, both stroke survivors. Knowing that I was asking on behalf of these two people who are powerfully dear to my heart made asking for the money easier, a lot easier. I wasn’t asking for money for me, I was asking for them, and others like them. This came through in the letter.
Let’s be honest, people are not going to be motivated to donate to your cause unless you show them the pain and the struggle. With “Amazing Andy,” we spoke of Andy’s continued daily struggles with vocabulary, feeding himself and using the bathroom on his own, things most 5-year-olds (and their parents) take for granted. Accompanying the letter were images of Andy with tubes sticking out of his tiny body and the scars of multiple surgeries. These images are not easy to look at. They’re not intended to be. People have to feel the pain and then be motivated to do what they can to help alleviate it.
Despite the despair, people want to know that there is hope and that their donation can help provide it. For the American Stroke Association, I quoted stroke statistics, including the number of Americans who would suffer a stroke that year, but I also told potential donors what their money would do, via the ASA—things like fund research, education, advocacy programs and patient services.
For “Amazing Andy,” we made sure to explain what this alternative therapy—called the Anat Baniel Method—had already done for Andy and others, and what else it could do. We also included links to YouTube clips demonstrating the therapy, so potential donors could see for themselves what their donation could do for Andy.
If I can work humor into an otherwise serious situation, I will. At the end of my campaign letter for the American Stroke Association, I jokingly told prospective donors that, if after donating to the ASA, they had money left over and wanted to donate to my “Lexus fund,” they were welcome to make those checks out to me. It was silly, but it also drove home the fact that while I was asking them for money, an uncomfortable thing for most people to do, the money was going to a worthy cause.
Back in 2004, when I wrote my American Stroke Association fundraising letter, I included a self addressed stamped envelope. These days, donating is much easier, faster and cheaper via online campaigns—click on a link, fill in some information and it’s done. Just make sure to include the link and make sure it works! If donors have to work too hard to support your cause, they might walk away.