Here’s A Real, Live “Donor-Centered” Appeal Letter

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Donor-centered means it’s all about the donor!

You’re probably working hard to create a donor-centered appeal letter for the fall fundraising season.

But what does “donor-centered” really mean?

What does it look like in action?

We all know how it is supposed to work:

We’re supposed to make it all about the donor and not about our organization.

It’s easy to pay lip service to this idea, but putting it into practice is much harder than it may seem.

I’m giving you a “before” and “after” version of an appeal letter.

Here’s what happened. I was working with a hospital outside New York City to upgrade their overall fundraising program. The staff brought me their fall appeal letter to review.

The original unedited letter went like this:

Dear Mr. Donor:

Did you know that last year Smith Hospital:

  • got this award expanded
  • this center of medicine
  • brought in xx number of new doctors
  • did this, did that, etc.

This was a nice letter, written in the correct tone that I had been working with the staff on.

I liked that the word “you” showed up immediately in the first sentence.

But the letter seemed all about the hospital, and not about the donor.

What the donor wants to hear, and what you want to say are probably totally different.

So I sat down and, just brainstorming with the staff, came up with this revised letter instead.

And I think this is a true sample of what people mean by “donor-centered.”

Here is a donor-centered appeal letter that’s friendly, casual, heart-felt and even a bit intimate.

Its tone is very personal. It has short sentences, action verbs, lots of white space.

And it talks about the donor and what he gets from the hospital.

My donor-centered appeal letter is all about the donor.

And I’d be pleased if you’d like to knock off any part of this letter.

If any words or phrases seem to ring true to your cause and for your donors, by all means USE THEM.

And this letter uses the word “you” 14 times. It uses the pronoun “your” 8 times.

Dear Name,

When you or a family member is ill or injured, where do you turn?

If you’re like most in our community, you go to Smith Hospital.


Because you know you will receive absolute top-notch medical care.

And you also know that you’ll be treated like a real person, by dedicated, compassionate health professionals in a warm, caring environment.

Your contributions have helped make Smith Hospital the leading regional health care provider that it is.  We are so grateful to you for helping to create and support our committed team of caregivers.

You are helping our caregivers touch the lives of thousands – whether patients are facing an urgent need, a devastating disease or seeking to improve their quality of life.

Smith Hospital is your community hospital.  We exist to serve you and your loved ones – to provide hope, healing and recovery.

Your gift is extremely important because it offers immediate resources that are directed to current needs and opportunities at the hospital. 

Your gift of $500 will help make an immediate impact on urgently needed health services to our community. 

Our doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, dietitians, technicians, Emergency Department staff – every one here who works to serve you joins me in thanking you for your generous partnership and support. 

If you’d like, you can specify your gift to a particular department or program – The Cancer Institute, Breast Center, Cardiology, Emergency Department, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Pediatrics, Community Health, Integrative Medicine – wherever you choose.

Please send your gift today. All of our caregivers are counting on your support. 

As medical care advances, your hospital is committed to staying at the cutting edge – for you, for your loved ones, for every person in the community.  Please help to make this possible with your contribution.

Your donation is helping to make our community healthier. Right here. Right now.

Thank you so much for your help.



President and Chief Executive Officer


If you’d like to learn  more about how to craft your own Donor-Centered appeal letter, then join us on September 10. for my next webinar: “How to Create a Donor-Centered Appeal Letter Workshop:  Write Your Appeal Letter with Love, Inspire Your Donors and Raise More Money.

Jen Love, and her partner John Lepp, of the Canadian direct-response firm Agents of Good will give us appeal letter checklists, samples of excellent letters to copy and more.  You can learn more about the 90-minute, hands-on Workshop Here.

So what do you think? Yes, it can be improved, probably in lots of ways! :) But do you see:

  • the personal tone?
  • The use of the word “you?”
  • The white space?
  • The short paragraphs?
  • How I tried to add urgency to a “general” appeal? (Not easy to do)
  • How I tried to tie the donor’s gift directly to results?
  • How I asked for a specific amount?

Tell me what you like about it and what would make it better! Leave a comment!