How to Write an Effective Fundraising Letter

Wallet with moneyI have a feeling I’m not alone, but I receive a lot of requests for charitable giving — from non-profits, from schools, from friends or family who support a particular cause…you name it.  At least once a month, I receive a request for money from fundraisers or charities. All of them are for good causes, but not all of the requests are written effectively.

But I received a letter yesterday that was so well written, I wanted to share it as a highly effective example of how to solicit donations for a cause. Here it is below, with my comments in red.

Hello parents of [name deleted] School! She starts off with a friendly, personalized greeting.

My name is [name deleted], and I’m a member of the [name deleted] Parish and a recently returned volunteer from a year-long mission in Ecuador. This time last year, I was celebrating the birth of Christ among the poorest of the poor in Ecuador. Notice she tells us right away who she is and makes a connection with the reader. She is sending this to parents of children in a Catholic school, so the religious reference is appropriate. We also know that she is a passionate volunteer, having completed a year-long mission in Ecuador.

More than a billion people are living without clean water on our planet. She goes immediately into a striking fact to get our attention

The reality of Christmas in our world: America spends around $500 billion a year on Christmas gifts. That’s more than $600 a person. We also spend another $8 billion on decorating for Christmas. With two sentences, she offers statistics that immediately shift our perspective and make us think: why on earth are we spending that much on gifts and decorations when some people don’t even have money for clean water?

We want to give people the gift of life this season by providing clean water. The gift of life – now that sounds like a worthwhile cause.

 The mission of [name deleted] Parish is to raise $5000 for Christmas this year through the non-profit organization “Charity: water”. 100% of every penny we raise will go directly to the water projects. 100% – that’s what we all want to hear. Now we feel comfortable that our money will not be mispent. And every project is “proved” using GPS technology and photos and put on Google Earth. Together, we’ll be able to see the impact we’ve made. Even better, we will be able to see tangible results from the money we give.
One billion people, one cause. great slogan.

My friends in Guayaquil, like more than one billion people on our planet, are living without clean water. Some walk miles every day to get to the nearest source: a stagnant, parasite-infested stream or pond. They lug it back to their families. They suffer from a multitude of diseases because they lack clean water. Approximately, 45,000 people die each day from waterborne illnesses. These images are very effective – I can actually picture these people. They seem real, rather than just a vague idea. I can’t imagine walking miles for clean water, or even down the street for that matter.

[name deleted] Parish has started a campaign for clean water to raise $5,000 by Christmas. On December 16, 2011 students will have an opportunity to bring in $1.00 to dress in purple for the day. All she asks is for $1! I feel like giving her more. This donation will combine with the Parish for our $5,000 campaign for clean water!

Please also consider making an additional donation via check (made payable to “xyz”, with ‘clean water’ in the memo – drop off at the Parish Center) or on our website, at This gives me two different options to contribute. Every dollar helps the fight for clean water! Also, check out the informational videos online at She gives me a link where I can find more information.

Thank you and many blessings to you and yours this Christmas,

[name deleted]

Now am I going to donate to this cause? Absolutely. This letter is so effective that anyone who read it would feel guilty for not contributing. And that’s how you measure an effective fundraising letter.

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