The Key to Successful Fundraising Letters is Research!
Fundraising letters – asking for support from business – are often an important part of any fundraising campaign. Getting them right is crucial. The work that goes into a letter however should start long before you sit down in front of the computer.
The best strategy for small organisations is to carefully target their fundraising requests and the key to a good fundraising letter is research.
So what research should you do?
Find out about your own supporters. – Who are they? Where do they work? What contacts do they have? Keeping volunteer records with a simple question sheet for new volunteers to fill in is an easy way to collect and save this information. If this is not possible simply make sure that you really get to know your volunteers. Talk to them, ask them about what they do and the companies they work for.
Smaller companies are often great prospects for gifts in kind. Your volunteers can be the key to making that contact. At the very least they can often find out the contact details of the person at their organisation you should be getting in touch with. A personal recommendation from a staff member with any request will also help it carry more weight.
Find out about the companies you think might help you. – Why do you think they are a good prospect? Have you seen them support other groups? Do they have anything about charitable giving or sponsorship on their website. With larger companies this information is often listed under Community, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or Sustainability. Do they have a Foundation (charitable giving department)? You may actually find guidelines for how to approach them for support on these web-pages.
Sometimes a simple phone call to reception will help you identify the right person to write a fundraising letter to. It really does make a difference getting your letter to the right person so try not to skip this step.
Is it a local request? Some companies might only offer help to non profit causes in their immediate locality. This is especially true of smaller organisations who tend to focus very much on their local areas. Some larger organisations will split their charitable efforts between bigger causes but also have special funds etc for local charity groups and community sponsorships which are popular with their own workforce.
Use your research – Your research will help you tailor your fundraising requests. There is no point asking a small company for a major cash donation but they might be great for an annual raffle prize, sponsorship of cup for a challenge event or advertising in a newsletter.
Similarly a bit of research might reveal a company’s charitable giving strategy that your organisation could fit to a tee for a nice big sponsorship package! (Well we can always hope!)
Having realistic expectations based on your research is an important part of the process. Tailor your request to the company you are approaching.
Keep a record - The final point to make about research is how to keep it. It really is worth setting up either a simple little database or recording information in a records book. This really doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple excel sheet with contact details is the start. Add a few details about the company. Then simply record any correspondence. This will help you keep on top of your fundraising letters and company replies and prevent duplication of requests. It also means that your work can be used and added to by others.
So good fundraising letters begin with research and end with administration! – But you will find spending the time on this is the key to success.
Ready to start your research?
Neill Wilkins runs a popular web-site for fundraisers and non-profit organisations. For more information and sample fundraising letters please visit-
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