Fundraising Letters Must Tell Great Stories
If your fundraising letter doesn’t tell a great story, it’s not a fundraising letter. It’s a memo. Direct mail fundraising is all about storytelling.
If you want your direct mail donors to respond to your letters in greater numbers and with larger gifts, learn the craft of storytelling. Learn how to write human-interest stories that inspire, motivate and move your donorsâ€”to give.
As a gospel preacher and one-time university instructor, I’ve learned over the years that the safest way to make your point stick is to tell a story. As UK fundraising consultant Ken Burnett observes in his book, The Zen of Fundraising, fundraisers should tell stories because “we have some of the best stories in the world and the best reasons of all for telling them.”
Jesus Christ revealed complicated truths about God’s character, God’s prophetic plan for the ages, and moral absolutes by telling parables. The Prodigal Son. The Good Samaritan. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. These phrases are in common use today because the person who coined them 2,000 years ago told stories. Memorable stories. Stories that reached the hearts of His hearers.
Your fundraising letters need to do the same. And the quickest way to a donor’s heart is through the adrenal glands. Consider, for example, this opening paragraph from a fundraising letter mailed by Covenant House:
“She stood on the curb looking scared and lonely in a skimpy halter top and bright red lipstick. It was two in the morning. A chilly breeze whipped up in the street and seemed to make her shiver. She was a child . . . just a child. We pulled our Covenant House van up to the curb and rolled down the window . . . .”
Or this opening story from an appeal letter mailed by The Cousteau Society:
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