Structuring Appeal Letters

Posted on 12/01/2022

One of the most difficult things about writing a fundraising appeal is getting started. Sitting and staring at a blank computer screen can be both frustrating and deflating. Writer’s block isn’t lost on fundraisers, no matter how passionate they might be about their institution’s mission.

When the time comes to write your next appeal, the first thing you should do is think about and determine the audience. Are you asking someone to renew their past support or make a gift for the first time? Are you hoping to win back a supporter who has lapsed or are you trying to upgrade someone to a leadership level? Are you writing to alumni, parents, faculty, or staff? The more you know about your audience, the better you can address them in a personal and meaningful way.

Once you’ve defined your audience, the next step is to give your appeal some shape and structure.  This is best accomplished by creating a rough outline. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just something simple to guide you when it comes time to start writing. Consider including the following sections in your outline along with some notes about your goals and objectives in each area:

  1. IntroductionGrab the readers’ attention at the very beginning with a story, question, or quote.
  2. Case for SupportExplain why support is needed. Describe the impact or consequences of no support.
  3. The AskDon’t bury it. Suggest a specific amount and describe what it will achieve. Give them a deadline
  4. ConclusionRestate your case for support and synthesize your main point. Consider restating the ask. 
  5. SignatureGive your message a voice from someone who will resonate with your audience.
  6. Post ScriptHighlight something important. This may be the first (or only) thing someone reads.

With a good outline in place, you’ll be ready to start writing. And don’t expect that your first draft will be perfect. Review and revise it several times. Get a colleague (or several colleagues) to read it and make suggestions. Remember that nothing is ever well-written, only well-re-written.

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