Education Fundraising Appeal Letter Checklist

Education Fundraising Appeal Letter Checklist

It’s year-end fundraising season! A time when education marketers and development officers work hand in hand to inspire donors and alumni to give generously. As you work on your fundraising appeal letter, refer to this helpful checklist to make sure your letter hits the mark.

1. Do you have a clear problem to solve?

There are lots of problems in the world. The good work your private college or university does every day contributes to the solution of many of these problems.

But with a mission as vast as education, it can be hard for donors to grasp the concrete problem they’re being asked to help solve.

So you must make sure that your fundraising appeals clearly define a problem your donors can actually solve by responding to the letter.

Consider these two examples:

  • Can donors solve racial tensions in America with their gift? No, but even a gift of $25 can help scholarship a minority student, which diversifies your student body.
  • Can donors solve generational poverty with their gift? No, but their gift can help scholarship a first generation college student, which helps lift families out of poverty.

Your fundraising appeal needs a clearly definable problem that your donor can help solve by giving.

2. Do you have a clear call to action?

The first point on the checklist is to have a clear problem—now you need a clear solution.

What do you want the donor to do? Pray? Join the alumni association? Give $25, $50, or $100 to the annual fund?

Clarify your call to action and state it at least once on the first page. You don’t want your reader to have to try and figure out what to do, and you want them to see it clearly from page 1.

3. Does your annual fundraising appeal have an attainable goal?

Fundraising appeals with a clearly defined, attainable goal perform better than those with ambiguous, indefinite goals.

In other words, how much will it cost to solve the problem, and is it close enough to what’s reasonable for your donor?

Show your annual gift donors (those who usually give once a year at $50 to $500 per gift) how much money needs to be raised to make the problem go away in terms that makes their gift significant.

Here’s an example: Instead of simply stating the $1 million budget, show them how a gift of $100 can help close the tuition gap for a student who’s behind on her payments.

4. Does your case for support begin with the emotional triggers of your donor?

As a marketer, you know that students enroll in your school because something about what you stand for and create resonates with their core values and desires. Choosing a college or university is at first an emotional decision, and then a rational choice.

Same is true for fundraising. A number of emotional needs and motives cause people to give:

  • Sense of duty to their faith, religion, or denomination
  • Pride in their alma mater
  • Pride in their community, state, or field of study
  • Need to feel a part of a community or cause
  • Anger or fear at the way things are in the world

Powerful appeal letters remind the donor of how giving will satisfy these emotional triggers.

“Your gift to help fund the Bryan Sommers Sports Program ensures that more students like Bryan get the hand up they need to succeed.”

“Your prayerful support of the Rogers Nursing Center keeps the spirit of excellence alive in the hearts of nursing students… especially those like Sarah, a single mom in our night school.”

5. Does your fundraising appeal letter convey a sense of urgency?

All of us are procrastinators at heart. We need a healthy dose of urgency to carry out any decision.

“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” – Rita Mae Brown

That’s why your appeal letter needs to convey clearly why your donor should give right now instead of later.

  • Perhaps the end of your fiscal year is coming up, and you have a funding gap.
  • Or, maybe your donors only have a few months to give and claim their tax exemption for the gift.
  • Or, maybe you have students whose applications will not go through in the next few weeks unless your scholarship fund budget is met.

The urgency of the need must be clear and compelling. Don’t beat around the bush on this one.

6. Is your appeal letter personal?

Unlike marketing or sales copy, appeal letters are written directly to someone, as if to a friend or family member. Because of this, they must be personal.

fundraising appeal letter writing

Your appeal letter should make good use of the word “you” whenever possible. Your letter must be all about the donor, their accomplishments, their desires, and their concerns.

Use pronouns like “I” and “we” with caution.

In fact, I recommend using first person pronouns only as a way to show the connection between the author of the letter, the cause, and the donor. Some examples:

“I’m writing you today because I know you’ve been there for our new students time and time again…”

“As a fellow alumnus, I’m asking you to give as generously as you can…”

Also, make sure the letter addresses the donor correctly. It should be friendly and familiar, nothing like “Dear Dr. Charles (Chuck) Schumacher III…”

7. Is your appeal letter donor-centric?

Successful appeal letters make the donor the hero of the story. Essentially, the letter shows a problem that only the donor can help solve. It’s an invitation to be the hero.

So instead of citing all the great exploits of your college or university, tell your donor how their giving made those accomplishments possible.

Instead of telling the donor how great your team is, show them how great they are by giving to make great things happen.

8. Is your appeal letter conversational and easy to read?

Personal letters, unlike essays and other academic writing, sound like the author talks in normal, everyday language.

Even if your average donor is a Ph.D., your letter should have all the warmth and ease of reading as if you were writing to your grandmother.

State your problem clearly and succinctly. Avoid jargon and professional terms that confuse people. Don’t be afraid to break a few grammar rules—and never use semicolons!

Keep paragraphs short—one or two lines each, three max.

Use adverbs and adjectives only when you need to. Rely on the strength of descriptive verbs to tell your story and motivate your reader to action.

9. Does your appeal letter include a story or testimonial?

Our brains are hard-wired for stories, not statistics or data points. Stories incite emotions within us as we read about the problem – and inspire us to action when we read about the solution.

Share a story about the challenges facing a real student. Or, feature a testimonial of how your donors have saved the day for a student.

10. Is your appeal letter skimmable?

This means that your appeal letter is easy on the eyes. I recommend using a 14 serif font, unless you’ve tested another font that works better for your donors.

Indent each paragraph. Use emphasis, underlining, and subheaders to highlight key points in the letter.

You don’t want to overdo these emphasis techniques, but your letter should have enough of them for donors to read quickly over your letter and understand exactly what you’re saying.

Delivered vs. Perfect

At the end of the day, letters in mailboxes raise more money than perfectly crafted letters that were never sent.

Do your best to plan appeals with enough time in advance to revise them, secure approval, get them to the printer, and land in people’s mailboxes on time.

Marketing and Development are two teams that must work together for the good of your organization. This checklist should be helpful as you work with your development team on this year’s annual appeal letter.

For more guidance from our team of marketing and development professionals, feel free to reach out to us here! The call is free and there’s no obligation.

This post was originally published at:


Education and Tech Tweet Compilation w/e 10-21-17

Education and Tech Tweet Compilation w/e 10-21-17 Inspiring, informative, useful, or just plain fun tweets posted on Twitter over this past week … collected here to share with our blog readers. This week in the wrap … a great set of assessment…

[Please click on the post title to continue reading the full post. Thanks (and thanks for subscribing)!]

Optimizing Your Education Website for Year-End Fundraising: Part 2

Optimizing Your Education Website for Year-End Fundraising: Part 2

In my last post, we began the conversation on how your development department colleagues need your help to be successful during their year-end campaigns. Here’s how to optimize your college or university’s website for end of the year fundraising.

End of the year fundraising is a big deal.

  • 31% of annual giving in 2014 occurred in the month of December, and
  • 12% of annual giving that year happened within the last three days of 2014.

That means an entire third of your school’s annual revenue from donors is probably going to come in within the last 31 days of this year.

Which is why it’s so important to work together with your development team this year to bring those needed gifts in.

And while you shouldn’t do everything that other nonprofits will be doing to optimize their websites, there are some highly productive ideas that you should be implementing this year.

Things You Should Do
Do design a highly visible Donate button.

Honestly, this should be a year-long staple on your homepage, but it’s even more crucial during the year-end season of giving.

Since you’re still getting a lot of traffic looking for enrollment information, you shouldn’t convert your homepage into a giving page.

But you can still make that Donate button nice, big, and beautiful in your site’s menu bar — and it can take visitors to your giving page.

Marian University does this well with a big, yellow Donate button right next to their Apply Now button. When you click on it, it takes you to their Salsa Labs donor management system’s giving page.

year end fundraising donate button

Do optimize your giving page.

Speaking of giving pages, you should optimize your giving pages in much the same way you do with enrollment landing pages. Your giving page should…

  • Have one clear call to action. In this case, it’s to make a gift to the college or university.
  • Be free of top-line navigation. There should only be two actions available to the visitor on your giving page: A.) Give, or B.) Go back to homepage by clicking on your logo.
  • Begin with a cohesive headline. Your headline should reflect the language that the visitor clicked on so they know they arrived at the correct page.
  • Feature compelling rich content. Be sure to place a powerful video or image on the page — and avoid the temptation to let the copy run too long. Let the imagery speak loudly.

Do tell good stories.

Good storytelling is a part of good marketing — and even more so with fundraising. It’s not enough to simply tell the visitor to give, you must tell stories that show…

  1. Why they should give,
  2. Why they should give to you instead of another cause, and
  3. Why they should give now.

The stories you tell at the end of the year on giving pages and other fundraising communications should stand out from your normal marketing stories.

The emotional power of the stories should be greater.

When you give, the only thing you get in return is the satisfaction of doing good, righting a wrong, or leaving a legacy. Without emotional storytelling, your donors will not get anything out of their gift.

The donor must be the hero of these stories.

It must be clear in the stories you tell in your school’s blog, newsletter, or giving pages how the donor makes the story possible. They must be able to see their part clearly in the story.

Do feature your year end fundraising campaign on your homepage.

Without converting your homepage to a full-blown giving page, use sections of the homepage to drive traffic to your year-end giving pages.

Use moving portrait or landscape photography or video content with compelling headlines to entice website visitors to click through to the giving page.

These year-end campaign feature sections, along with your highly visible Donate button, should be enough to help your development team reach their goals without losing sight of the main purpose of your higher ed website: enrollment.

Year-End Success

The end-of-the-year is crucial for both fundraising and enrollment. Both of these institutional objectives need your attention as a higher ed marketer.

However, it’s important not to get sidetracked or clog your homepage with too many calls to action.

By implementing the Do’s and Don’t’s of year-end website optimization, you can avoid the common pitfalls that higher education websites fall into and make this year a success for everyone!

For more tips and tricks that directly impact your marketing and fundraising results, be sure to get ahold of us for a free website audit.

This post was originally published at:

In Puerto Rico, Chef José Andrés Heralds School Cooks Feeding Those in Need

In Puerto Rico, Chef José Andrés Heralds School Cooks Feeding Those in Need The renowned chef and restaurant magnate is teaming up with Puerto Rico’s education agency to organize school-based cooks around the island to prepare as much food as possible for people in need.<img src=”; height=”1″ width=”1″ alt=””/>

Civics Education Shouldn’t Put Students to Sleep

Civics Education Shouldn’t Put Students to Sleep Strengthening our democracy requires students understand some basic facts about government, including how it works, argue two civics-education advocates.<img src=”; height=”1″ width=”1″ alt=””/>