How to Write an Appeal Letter

... the Catholic way

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandment of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

If you’ve been following me for the past two years, I hope that you’ve enjoyed my weekly articles on how to fundraise in a Catholic context. Yes, I’ve dedicated 100% of my attention to Catholic fundraising. That includes religious orders, lay apostolates, youth ministry, family ministry, pro-life ministries, schools, universities, and the list goes on.

I’ve offered the steps on where to find donations, how to ask for donations, and when to adopt new strategies (such as online fundraising).

Today, let’s dive into the world of appeal letters. You will notice that I take a different approach to the average fundraiser. Rather than focus my attention on asking for a donation, I focus on my relationship with the reader.

Relationships are your #1 goal with appeal letters

Why do I believe in this approach?

Because, in the fundraising world, your two most important assets are 1) your relationships with donors, prospects, and volunteers, and 2) your lists of donors, prospects, and volunteers.

Everything else – including donations – is secondary.

Never forget that every donation comes from a person. You must develop a relationship with that person in order for them to want to donate to you.

Therefore, you must write your appeal letters with the objective of fostering a stronger relationship. If your focus is on how to lead up to your donation request, then you are limiting your opportunities.

Case Study – How to Write an Appeal Letter

I’ve been assisting a pro-life organization in Minnesota this past year, and they’ve had plenty of success with their fundraising. But now they want to expand their mission and raise more.

I helped write their most recent appeal letter. We moved the focus to a story that we know would capture the reader’s attention and build a stronger relationship with them. We didn’t send a boring newsletter that lists everything the non-profit has been doing. Instead, we focused on telling just one story.

It was about a young pregnant woman in prison. While behind bars, the woman got to know the director, who gave her hope that she had a bright future, both inside and out of prison. In two pages, we described her struggle before arriving at the decision to keep her baby. We explained how the pro-life organization – thanks to reader support – helped her on that journey.

At the end of the letter, rather than ask for another donation, we asked our readers to do two things. We included a photo of the pregnant mother and asked them to place it somewhere in their home (on the ‘fridge, for example) where they would be reminded to pray for the young woman.

The other request was to let our readers know that the organization would be calling them directly to check in and see if they had any other questions. At the time their letter was sent, the young mother was ready to give birth.

The results – more donations than expected

The director of the pro-life organization was delighted with the results of the appeal letter. In her words,

“I had a reason to call or text each donor with the end of the story and to share a heart touching picture. They seemed surprised I was just calling to touch base with the ending and not be calling about money.”

This approach produced higher levels of response rates. Her donors, volunteers, and prospects were delighted to speak with her, on the phone and in person.

With regards to fundraising, the organization vastly exceeded their expectations and raised 27% over their funding target.

Question: How can you make your next appeal letter more about relationships than donations?

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandment of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

Brice was born and raised Catholic. After enjoying a successful career in technology consulting with Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in cities across the United States (Dallas, San Francisco, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and London) around the world, he left it to help his Catholic diocese in London, England with a fundraising campaign. The campaign went on to raise over $60 million, the largest sum ever raised for the diocese and in the United Kingdom.

Learning from professional fundraisers, he figured out the basics and then left the diocese to focus on what he loves most: building Catholic charities that change the culture, save lives, and save souls.

Brice currently lives in Texas and travels the world helping Catholics fundraise. This website is where he shares what he is doing and how he is raising funds for Catholic causes and missions. That way you can move more quickly with your next appeal.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, protect us as we announce the good news of God's beloved Son, Jesus Christ.