Reviewing Appeal Letters

Posted on 01/15/2019

The 20th-century British novelist and poet Robert Graves once said, “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” The world of annual giving is no exception, and this serves as a reminder that no appeal letter is ever perfectly written on the first attempt. Too often, however, time-strapped annual giving staff end up rushing and not putting enough effort into reviewing and revising their work. The truth is, a rewrite is often what distinguishes a good appeal letter from a great appeal letter.

Thanks to spellcheck and autocorrect, it’s easy to become a passive editor. Yet it remains critical to be a proactive editor, and it often takes several drafts to get things right. In the case of written fundraising appeals, editing must accomplish a number of objectives beyond just eliminating errors in grammar and spelling. It should also reflect on broader strategic questions before the piece is considered ready to send.

To help guide you through the important review and editing process, consider employing these three steps after completing the initial draft of your next appeal letter:

  1. Review it from the viewpoint of the donor. Is it an interesting story? Does the beginning capture the reader’s attention? Is the case for support clearly articulated? Does it create a sense of urgency to make a gift? You should feel confident that your readers will be drawn in and come away with an understanding of why and when they should make a gift.
  2. Make sure it’s properly “aligned.” Is the tone fitting for the person reading it? Does the messaging feel consistent with the institution’s brand? If there is a comprehensive campaign underway, is it tied in? Look for the letter to check these boxes and, if needed, make adjustments to word choice or phrasing to give the appeal an appropriate and cohesive feel.
  3. Proof for flow and technical errors. Are sentences and paragraphs easy to read aloud? Is the piece free of spelling and grammar errors? Are names, titles, buildings, and other details correct? Have you made the most of emphasis techniques (such as bolding, underlines, and post-scripts) to highlight the key points without causing distractions or making the page seem too busy? As you wrap up content revisions, don’t forget to take the time to ensure the whole piece flows well and reads accurately.

Like most any skill, your appeal writing will improve if you revisit it again (and again) after your first try. Ensuring that you are clearly and compellingly communicating your message in a way that fits with your overall brand is just as important as checking for typos. Write well, but using these three tactics, rewrite even better.

AGN Members receive unlimited access to our resources, discounts, and other benefits. Click here to learn more.

Want to stay up-to-date on best practices in annual giving? Click here to follow AGN's Page on Linkedin!