I was a Board member of a new nonprofit when the concept of an Introduction Appeal Letter came to me. Getting donations was something that was now on our list of challenges. I had been in a larger nonprofit where we sent out appeal letters. My letters normally received $80,000 per letter. Using the starting from within and moving out principle and my track record of writing appeal letters, the Board decided to send out letters.
The typical fundraising letter I was accustomed to writing didn’t make sense for the new organization. There were no impacts or client stories to tell. So how do you write an appeal letter for a new organization? This type of fundraising letter is what I call an Introduction Appeal letter.
What is an Introduction Appeal Letter?
An appeal letter is also known as a fundraising letter. Its purpose is to raise money for a nonprofit organization. An Introduction Appeal Letter is a type of appeal letter that serves three purposes:
- Introduces the nonprofit and Founder’s vision;
- Raises money for the organization; and
- Raises awareness of your organization among your sphere of influence. We’ll go deeper into the purposes later.
Benefits of an Introduction Appeal Letter
An Introduction Appeal Letter is one low-cost strategy that a new nonprofit can use to raise money. It helps Founders open up funding beyond themselves and the Board. It is a way to grow your donor list. Growing your list should be a top priority. It is the foundation of fundraising. An Introduction Appeal Letter raises awareness in your sphere of influence.
How Do We Use It
An introduction appeal letter is part of the start from within and work out principle. In this basic fundraising principle, we start with those closest to you and move outward to people you don’t know. A letter can be a good way for Founders to get comfortable with asking for money.
The Introduction Appeal Letter’s Three Purposes
Raise Awareness Among the People Most Likely to Give to You at This Stage
One of the first things an introduction appeal letter does is introduce your organization to the friends and families of you and your Board. This helps bring awareness to those closest to your organization that your organization exists.
Cast Your Vision
Since you probably don’t have client stories or impact stories, you will need to cast your vision. It gives your donors something to support with their wallets. Donors like to give to specific things. Your concrete vision is that specific thing at this stage. Spend time honing that vision.
A Founder’s passion is contagious so tell the Founder’s story. Many Founders begin their nonprofit because they have experienced the problem first hand. They have come out on the other side and experienced gaps in help. They’ve thought, “If I just had xyz, I could have gotten to the other side so much faster.” Your story should express your situation and the problem you solve very clearly. This may be very hard for a Founder. If that’s the case, find a way to step back from the story when you tell it. You may say, “I began noticing homeless families…” You don’t have to say you noticed because you were a homeless family. The more vulnerable you can be when telling your story, the better it will be received by people who want to support you.
Why did you start the nonprofit? This is probably the single most important part of your story. People connect with big whys. They remember it and want to help. Your why should not be skipped.
Where do you want the nonprofit to be in 6 months to a year? Casting a short-term vision creates objectives that are specific and can be reported back. Since you probably don’t have a program, this gives your donors something to get behind.
Ask for Funding
You can’t do good work in your community without support from your friends and family. Don’t be bashful about asking those closest to you to give to your nonprofit. They are the most likely to give to you and it’s good practice. Your other option is to continue funding it yourself.
Why it works
You Take the Time to Explain Your Vision
Your vision is what you have going for you right now. Bring people into a world that only your organization can make possible.
You Bring Some Connection into the Letter
By telling the Founder’s story, you make a connection with the reader. This connection to you and your cause will help you raise the money you need.
The Ask is Coming from Someone the Person Knows
Fundraising 101 is to start from within and work out. Every nonprofit has built-in donors. They are people who are naturally close to you or your organization’s mission. So you start with those closest to you and move out. Your first donors will be those loyal to you and individual Board members. From there, you will move out to friends and family. Then, coworkers and people you interact with on a regular basis. Before you exhaust these donors, you will define your Ideal Donor.
An interesting thing happens at this point. Your Ideal Donor will begin inviting you into their inner circle. Lastly, you will be reaching out to others in your community and will begin receiving one-time donations. Before you get to the community, you have to start with the people that are closest to your mission. They are emotionally tied to either you, your Board, or the mission itself. These are the people an Introductory Appeal letter reaches.
An introduction appeal letter is a good strategy to gain some needed funds. It helps you connect with people most likely to give to you and raises awareness of your cause among your sphere of influence. Join me in the next article where I walk through how to write an Introduction Appeal Letter.