Three Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Annual Fund Appeal Letter

Vol. 16 No. 4

advancement eletter Vol16 No4 annualletter

Your school’s appeal letter is a core element of your annual fund campaign. It presents your mission to your donors and prospects, inviting them to make a gift to your school to further your cause and benefit your students.

Your letter tells them why their gift makes a difference and assures them that their gift will be used as intended. It’s critical that the letter captures the reader’s attention and leaves a lasting positive impression.

But some all-too-common mistakes often find their way into this crucial communication. Avoid these three mistakes when crafting your own annual appeal letter.

Mistake No. 1: Sending a generic letter.

You don’t want your annual fund letter to be too broad or cumbersome. Your letter should tell a story that matters specifically to its audience—and this often means different letters to different constituency groups. Inspire donors by creating a connection between their personal interests and values and those of your school. Connect the heart of your donor to the core of your mission. Let relevant testimonials from students, parents, and alumni illustrate how your school has made a difference in their lives so donors know exactly the change they’re empowering.

Mistake No. 2: Doing all the work yourself.

It is nearly impossible for one person to handle all aspects of sending an appeal letter. This includes composing, signing, and mailing all letters, plus scheduling meetings with prospects and donors. Invite volunteers to be included in the process, allowing them to sign off on letters to be sent to groups they are close to. Groups you should consider include Trustees, current and past parents, grandparents, alumni, faculty, and staff. Receiving a letter from a peer can be much more meaningful than receiving one from the Development Office or perhaps even the School Head.

Mistake No. 3: Forgetting to include a specific dollar request.

Let’s face it—asking for money isn’t easy. You may be tempted to leave off a specific dollar amount, thinking people will give what they can afford. You might write things like “please be generous” or “anything you give will be appreciated.” But the problem here is that neither phrase conveys a sense of importance. If you’ve done your homework and you understand who each donor or prospect is, you can make an educated estimate for an appropriate ask based on their previous giving and circumstances. Also, always thank someone for his or her previous gifts before asking for another.

Avoiding these three common mistakes gives you a great foundation for bringing your annual fund appeal letter to life.

Have you had amazing success with your annual fund appeal letter? Any words of wisdom you’d share with other private-independent school Development Directors? Leave your advice in a comment below and you may see your thoughts in an upcoming Source article.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Private School News Vol. 17 No. 1 School Spotlight: How Prince of Peace Christian School Tripled Its Annual Fund
The Source for Advancement Vol. 8 No. 1 Three Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections to Boost Your Annual Fund
The Source for Advancement Vol. 12 No. 9 Frequently Asked Questions About the Annual Fund—And How To Answer Them!

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 35 No. 10 How Do You Set the Annual Fund Goal?
I&P Vol. 38 No. 15 How to Design Your Annual Fund as a Platform for Campaign Gifts
I&P Vol. 39 No. 15 Driving Annual Fund Success Through Your Volunteer Cabinet

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