Fundraising appeal letter mistakes – 5 key items to avoid

Your year-end appeal letter just might be missing the boat.

Here are some common fundraising appeal letter mistakes I see so very often: 

1. Your call to action is weak.

Lots of letters I see beat around the bush. They don’t tell the donor explicitly what step to take.

You’ve simply got to tell people what to do! And you have to lay it out in very specific words.

Give them the next step. Outright.

Say: “Please fill out the reply card and send it today.”

Say, “The xxx needs you today. Please make a gift right now.”

Use the word “today.”

Use the words “right now.”

That gives the letter a sense of urgency and a deadline.

The donor needs both – so she’ll take action and not set your letter aside to consider later.

MUST DO: Make your call to action completely explicit.

2. You are not asking enough times in the letter.

You should be asking at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the letter.

There should be asks all over the place. 

One of the most common appeal letter mistakes I see is that the ask is weak, and is not obvious.

That’s what the letter is for, isn’t it?

MUST DO: Use all these different ways of asking in your letter:

  • “Please join us. . . “
  • “Please help today . . ..”
  • “Can’t do it without you.”
  • “Take part.”
  • “Take these two steps. . . “
  • “Make your gift right now.”

3. Your letter is hard to read. 

The typical donor is a female, over 60 years old. That means she probably needs reading glasses.

You don’t really want to make her reach for those glasses in order to read your letter, do you?  

So don’t make your appeal letter hard for your lovely donor to read! 

A big fundraising appeal letter mistake I see is font that is too small.

The new standard for appeal letters is 14 point type.  

And it needs to be black font, not grey. And no white copy on a colored background, which is also quite difficult to read.  

MUST DO: Always use 14 point type.

4. The word “you” is not showing up enough.

The word “you” is an emotional trigger. It IMMEDIATELY pulls people in.

If you don’t have “you” and “your” showing up tons and tons in your letter, throw it out and start over!

The word “you” is what makes the appeal letter donor-centered.

This is one of the fundraising appeal letter mistakes that I see so often.

Too much bragging about the organization and not enough talking about the donor. Too much “we” and “us” and not enough “you.”

MUST DO: Add the word “you” wherever you possibly can.

5. You are not mailing often enough to your donors asking them to renew.

One of the main reasons your donors don’t renew is NOT that they don’t like you anymore.

It’s that you don’t remind them enough that you are around.

It’s ok to followup and followup again, when a donor doesn’t renew their gift.

After all, you really don’t want to lose one of your True Believer Supporters, do you?

You need to be in front of your donors – don’t shy away from being in front of them asking them to join in and renew.

MUST DO: Stay after your wonderful donors with plenty of reminders to renew their gift!

One more thing!

You need to create the best possible appeal letter, don’t you? And how on earth do you create a compelling, powerful appeal letter that makes your donor want to give.

Did you know there are short cuts you can take that will jack up your dollar results? Just like these in this article.

Our Killer Appeal Letter Intensive this month brought four top experts together to share exactly what you need to know to give your appeals power and punch right now.

Some of our attendees called the sessions “mind-blowing and transformational – throwing everything you know on its head.”  You can get the full recordings and transcripts here. 

Fundraising Appeal Letter Mistakes


What do you think are more BIG MISTAKES people make in their year-end appeal letter?

I left out some good ones – leave a comment and tell me what they are!