Archive for the 'Letters' Category

If You Could Only Tell Your Fundraising Audience Five Things, What Would They Be?

Yesterday, I wrote about how using a numbered list format for your fundraising letters could help you get more people reading them and acting upon them. I gave an example of “The Top 10 Things You Can Do to Help Your Child’s School”. I argued that these kinds of numbered list articles or letters have a greater impact than traditional letters with just one paragraph just stacked up on another.

Today, I’d like to talk about using this strategy of a numbered list and applying it to a very specific kind of letter.

Since we know everyone’s time is at a premium, if you had to narrow down your entire year’s fundraising info into just five bullet points, what would those points be?

I know when I started to think about that question myself, my mind started to race. How can I cram information about all my various fundraisers for the entire year into just one point. Maybe I just have really long points! I’ll have one point that list every single fundraiser we’re going to hold. Then I can use the remaining four bullet points and cram a bunch of other stuff in there too.

But then I paused and realized that wasn’t a very good idea.

If I had to boil everything down to just five points, I probably shouldn’t waste any time on naming individual events. I shouldn’t list out all the busy-work that goes on in the fundraising calendar. Like the old cliché goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff (and most of it is small stuff).” That applies in this situation. With just five key items, I have to use them wisely.

So, here are three ideas of what I think should be included in the top five important things to share with your school families are. By no means am I saying these are must-haves and there may be circumstances at various schools that change this list dramatically. I’m just going off of my own experience working at a school and writing about fundraising for a long time.

Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comment section!

1. Parents should realize that the fundraising efforts at the school have all been reviewed and approved by the school administration, so that any money raised directly supports key educational goals that are not funded by the school’s operating budget. Whenever a parent is asked to donate money in any fashion, they should feel secure knowing that their money will have a direct and positive impact on their child’s education.

2. Because all the fundraising efforts are directed toward the children, parents shouldn’t get so worked up if they aren’t getting a “sweet deal” on cookie dough or wrapping paper, or carnival ticket prices. The normal rules of consumerism, where people always look for bargains, don’t apply in a school setting. The point is to raise money, so, of course, prices will be inflated over what you could buy in a big box store. Of course, a school carnival is going to charge a lot for food, games, and souvenirs, precisely because IT’S A FUNDRAISER. Parents should also be reminded if they don’t want to pay above market rate for popcorn or whatever, the school would happily take a check made out to cash.

3. Parents need to be told about the idea of micro-volunteering. So many parents have the idea that if they volunteer once, they’re going to get sucked in and always called for emergency, last-minute help. They fear becoming one of the handful of parents in the entire school that actually help. Therefore, they need to be told that the parent-teacher group wants to spread volunteering out in wide but shallow pool. That means lots of people doing only a small amount. The more people that step forward, the less everyone has to do.

Do these three ideas get your creative juices flowing? How would you finish this list? Maybe something I wrote isn’t that important in your situation. Let us know in our comment section!

Photo by: woodleywonderworks

The Number One Way to Get Parents to Read Your Fundraising Letters

We are a society that loves list. Everywhere you turn, there’s a top 10 of this or the top 100 of that. Lists are great because they written to be straight to the point, they’re numbered, which makes them easy to read and digest, and because the reader believes that the information must be useful, if the author took the time to prioritize the individual importance of each point.

A numbered or bulleted list is much better at communicating its message than a long, flowing letter is. People love to scan, because they don’t have time to get bogged down in never-ending paragraphs.

So, I’m wondering if you might consider using such a tool the next time you want to communicate with your school families.

For instance, instead of writing a regular old letter to parents about collecting soup labels or box tops, you could create a list and make an attractive flyer out of it- “5 Easy Ways to Remember to Clip Your Box Tops.” or “10 Ways You Can Help your Child’s School This Year” or “The 3 Best Strategies to Ask Friends and Family to Buy Cookie Dough”

Whatever message you have to send out, craft it in a way that people are going to read, understand, and act upon. In this day and age, that means, short, sweet, and to the point. Give it a splashy (and hopefully catchy headline) in a list format, and you’ll increase the number of people who read your letters and get involved.

Photo by: drcorneilus

Volunteer Recruitment Letter Extreme Makeover

Just recently, an old friend of mine forwarded me an email he received from the leader of a non-profit organization he had just joined with his son. My friend knows that I write about non-profits for a living, so he thought this message might be of interest.

It was a request for volunteers.

Here is the text of the email:


How many of you would like to volunteer in some capacity. I am searching for some committee members. All you need is some good ideas for meetings. If you are able to help at the meetings just let me know. Remember this is you and your son’s [experience]. Every adult volunteer has something valuable to offer. I am confident you will find the experience to be rewarding and fulfilling.

Thank you,

I called my friend on the phone to ask him a few follow-up questions about the situation. He assured me that the leader who sent this email was very hard working and conscientious. He further told me that not many people had stepped forward to help with this group, so he really commended her for her willingness to sacrifice her time and energy for the well-being of the kids.
That being said, I still believe that this message really didn’t accomplish what the leader had hoped it would. I don’t think it inspired parents to get off their couches and help.

How would I fix this call for help? continue reading

5 Critical Components of a Well-Written Fundraising Letter

Pen and paperOne of the most important tools available to any fundraising leader is the fundraising letter. With a finely-crafted missive, the leader will be able to clarify the mission, excite the audience, and deliver on the stated need.

However, getting the letter to the point where it is “finely-crafted” is the hard part. I believe there are five key components that should be implemented to give your letter a much better chance of hitting its mark.

Before you begin writing, I recommend that you jot down a quick outline. This will help you plot your individual points, provide your supporting evidence, and generally keep you on track.

The outline should be broken down into five sections. These are: attention, interest, desire, conviction, and close. By following these five “guideposts” you are taking your reader on a directed journey, exactly where you want him to go. And fortunately, since this progression makes rhetorical sense, the reader will actually be happy to go along for this ride, as opposed to a letter that is all over the place and never really gets to the point.

Let’s break down each of the sections.

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How to Ask for Christmas Bonus Donations at a Private School

There is a local radio station where I live that made a stand this year against the premature playing of Christmas music.

For the past few years, stations up here, and I assume elsewhere, have been starting their holiday playlists earlier and earlier. No kidding, we were hearing Jingle Bells before the Monster Mash.

Finally, one station had had enough. They claimed that most people wanted to celebrate “one holiday at a time”. And I heartily agree with them.

So, now that Thanksgiving is behind us, I can happily focus my attention on Christmas.

It was right around this time each year when I was working at the private elementary school that I would write the annual letter to parents asking them to contribute to the teacher Christmas bonus fund.

I always looked forward to crafting this particular letter, because it was for a very personal cause. Everyone at the school knew that we couldn’t afford to pay the teachers what they were actually worth. (I’m sure many readers will commiserate.) And, our budget for payroll was already maxed out, so the only way we could give our staff a little extra in their December paycheck was to ask for help from the parents.

When thinking about writing this letter, there were a number of specific items that I made sure I worked into the letter. Here are ten of them: continue reading