The 6 most read parts of any major gift letter

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

I’m always a bit baffled when I see fundraising letters that fail to take into consideration the following. After all, research by Professor Siegfried Vogele has clearly proven what people read and in what order.

Here are the 6 most read parts of any major gift letter:

  1. The sender (firstly, the donor wants to see who sent the letter)
  2. The donor/recipient’s name (to see if the sender spelled it correctly and if it was sent to them specifically)
  3. The signature (to see if the sender signed it personally)
  4. The P.S. (to get the gist of the general theme quickly and to see “what’s in it for them”)
  5. Any handwritten text (special little notes that would make them feel special)
  6. Any underlined, bolded or highlighted copy (so they can skim the letter easily for convenience)

If you aren’t embracing what Professor Vogele learned a long time ago, you could be making big mistakes and missing big opportunities.

How to write fundraising appeal letters


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4 responses to “The 6 most read parts of any major gift letter”

  1. Don Eisenberg says:

    Why would you send a letter to solicit a major gift?

    • Greg Warner says:

      Good question Don. Upon reflection, this post should NOT have included the word ‘solicitation’ next to ‘letter’. The post and the report are really mostly about major donor letters, not solicitation letters.

      Now, having said that, some fundraisers might send a solicitation to what they consider to be a major donor (not a principle donor). Keep in mind that to some organizations, $500 or $1,000 is a major gift. And those sized gifts can be solicited with letters.

  2. Amy says:

    I work for a national non-profit. You would be surprised how many people will mail in $1,000-$5,000 checks and the occasional $25,000 check… and you can’t get them to talk to you! I would love to have a relationship with my MGD’s who are sending these checks however, some just love the mission and want to send money and don’t want to talk to you. If I could get them to talk to me, i’m sure we could make those gifts larger…. (sad face)

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