Building relationships with donors
Building relationships with donors

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Building relationships with donors

3.4 Communicating your request

There is a real tension between being both personal and impersonal at the same time, appealing to individuals as you appeal to thousands. The widespread aversion to junk mail, telephone selling and email spamming means you have only a brief moment to capture the interest and attention of your audience. This poses a dilemma: how to persuade your audience that your case warrants this attention without the dangers associated with using shock tactics, being too slick or gimmicky. Through careful testing, the direct mail industry has established a number of rules of thumb for how this can be done:

  • The envelope matters – A simple message printed on it gives the recipient a reason to open the envelope.

  • Make it personal – Direct mail packs are far less successful if they do not include a letter, and the more like a ‘real’ letter it is, the more effective it will be.

  • Credibility is crucial – The use of patrons and famous people to endorse a cause or present your case improves responses.

  • Use the layout – The headings you use and your opening sentence are particularly important.

  • Involve the recipient – This can be done by using the right questions or suggestions, or by enclosing something that offers an involvement device, for example a straw to breathe through so that people can discover what it is like to have an asthma attack.

Activity 3

Take a fundraising communication (a letter, a leaflet, an email, preferably from your own organisation) and critically appraise it using the bullet points above.

Note any learning points in your Learning Journal.


Tips and techniques can only take you so far, you still need to find the approach and the turns of phrase that will strike chords with a range of potential supporters. You still need to present the benefits, to the donor and to others, of the request you are making. And above all, you still need to make the request and to indicate a range of possible responses.


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