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Four Goals of Every Renewal Fundraising Letter

Written by: Alan Sharpe

In the fundraising profession, appeal letters that you mail to existing donors are called renewal letters. They are designed to solicit a gift, but, more important than that, they aim to persuade your current donors to renew their support of your organization. Donors renew their support with their cash, of course, but they also renew it with their commitmentwith their hearts and minds. And thats why renewal letters are so vital. They help you maintain your broad base of support year after year, cost-effectively.

Renewal letters are part of a year-long program that is usually called the Annual Giving Program. Annual does not mean that you mail just one letter a year (you shouldnt). It simply means that you look at your fundraising efforts as a year-by-year activity, one where you must persuade your active donors to renew their commitment each year.

Goal #1: Renew donor commitment

The primary goal of your annual appeal letters, then, is donor renewal. Some donors give only once a year. Others give regularly. And others send a few gifts during the year, but sporadically. You cannot expect that any of these donors will stay with your organization until death, theirs or yours. Donor renewal is not automatic, says James Greenfield, in his book, Fund Raising: Evaluating and Managing the Fund Development Process.

This means that each letter you mail should aim to re-motivate, re-invigorate and rejuvenate your donors, encouraging them, explicitly or implicitly, to renew their commitment to your organization, or, more accurately, to the people that your organization serves. This is often done with the first appeal letter of the year, but donor renewal is really a year-long activity that takes place with every contact you have with each donor, whether its a phone call, a personal visit or their presence at a banquet or other event.

Goal #2: Renewed gift

Naturally, your goal with every renewal fundraising letter is also to raise funds. So you must ask for a gift in each renewal letter you mail. Wherever possible, make a mention of the last gift that your donor sent, and thank them again for their support. And remember, the most effective renewal letters are those that ask for funds for a specific need, usually a project.

Goal #3: Upgraded gift

This goal is optional. In some of your letters during the year (usually at year-end), you have the option of asking your donors to renew their support at a higher level. This usually means asking donors to increase the size of each gift. For example, as Christmas approaches, you can mail your donors a letter that says, I am inviting you to renew your commitment by 10 percent this year, to help us keep pace with inflation, and to meet our ambitious goals for the coming 12 months.

Goal #4: Conversion to monthly giving

Does your non-profit organization have a monthly giving program? If you do, then you know how gratifying it is to have donors who send you a gift each month automatically from their bank account or credit card. Annual renewal letters are a perfect way for you to convert your annual givers to monthly givers. There are a few ways to do this:

1. Send a letter whose primary goal is to persuade annual givers to join your monthly giving program. Spell out the benefits that the donor and your organization enjoy from monthly giving.

2. Use your postscript (your PS at the bottom of each letter) to invite annual givers to join your monthly giving program.

3. Include a buckslip or liftnote in your letters, describing your monthly giving program and inviting donors to sign up.

Asking recent donors to send you another gift is a lot easier and less expensive than acquiring a new donor. Thats why renewal letters play such a vital role in helping your non-profit raise funds affordably. Most donors who respond by mail do not send with their first gift enough money to recover your costs of acquisition. Thats why their second gift and subsequent gifts are so crucial. My hope is that your fundraising letters will persuade your donors to stay with you for a long, long time.

© 2005 Sharpe Copy Inc. You may reprint this article online and in print provided the links remain live and the content remains unaltered (including the "About the author" message).
About the Author
Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer. View free sample fundraising letters and sign up for free weekly tips like this at www.fundraisingletters.org  .