How to personalize your solicitation letters
Posted June 9, 2014 by Hunter Williams

6 Steps to a Successful Appeal: Part four of a six-part series

Utilizing the personal information you’ve collected and maintained in your database about your constituents is vital throughout your annual giving campaign. Each step in a comprehensive annual giving campaign is dependent on having accurate information about your constituents and incorporating that into your outreach strategies. From ensuring the proper addressing of newsletters, solicitation letters, and acknowledgments to effectively segmenting your constituents based on documented interests and affinities, personalization plays a big role in the success of your appeals. It is well established that personalized letters asking for support of the mission (addressed to an individual by name) and signed by a member of the organization who knows the constituent personally, with a PS note too, will succeed much more than an impersonal “Dear Friend” letter.

Here are a few ways you can personalize your solicitation letters:

  • Personally address each letter with preferred addressee name and salutation
  • Develop letter content that is specific to the constituents in each segment
  • Do away with labels and generic letters
  • Acknowledge and thank the person for their last gift and include a specific ask amount

These methods show your constituents that you care about who they are and also convey a sense of nurturing your mutual relationship.

The figure below shows the members of an annual fund leadership committee included in the letterhead. In this case, the St. Paul Catholic High School president had extended invitations to members of the community who then came together to comprise the annual fund committee. Including their names in the letterhead helped to create buy-in with the many constituent groups in the school community and gave credence to the campaign, because recipients wanted to support a cause that others in their school were supporting as well, and this was another way to personalize the approach and the ask.

Annual Fund Letterhead

Figure 11. Annual fund letter template showing committee member names in the letterhead

Segment letters contain content very specific to each segment and can help you personalize your approach. Make sure you include name and address and the personal ‘Dear’ in the salutation field.

Examples of segment letters

Figure 12. Parent letter


Figure 13. Affinity letter

Asking others to help write and sign letters also contributes to making your approach as personal as possible. Figure 12 shares information with parents that is relevant to them and asks for an investment using a commitment form. Figure 13 is an affinity letter from a longtime soccer coach and was part of a first-time giving campaign geared toward the soccer players that he had worked with. You can tell from the content how invested and excited he was to be able to do that.

Another important point is how valuable volunteer engagement and involvement in your fundraising efforts can be. Assistance from volunteers increases the capacity of a development office, which often has a small staff. By building an annual fund leadership committee, for example, you can increase your capacity and draw on the volunteers’ circles of influence to help you reach more people.

Screenshot from Little Green Light

Figure 14. LGL constituent summary

Now that you’ve collected and maintained all this data-giving history, volunteer time, who has met with whom, who is related to whom, what activities they’ve attended- the final piece is to write personal notes on letters that you send out, especially at the renewal level. This can include a hand signature from a president, annual fund leadership chair, advancement officer, or board chair and is a great way to identify the letter as a personal ask. You can also add a personal note saying, for instance, ‘Great to see you at grandparent’s day last year!’ Use all that data you collected to make your mailings and letters personal.

End part four

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