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How to Write a Support Letter People Will Actually Want to Read

We’ve all been there: blank page, empty Mailchimp boxes, and the fragments of moments that we somehow need to turn into compelling stories. This is a regular experience in the life of those of us who raise support as a part of our job.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that not all support letters are equal. People make snap decisions about the emails that are worth their time to open and the letters they’re going to read based on design, accessibility, and quality of writing.

For those of us in the nonprofit space, it’s critical that we come to grips with the fact that just because our mission is good, it doesn’t mean our support letter will be. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips to guide you in writing a support letter that people will actually want to read.

Three Things To Remember When Writing Your Support Letter

  1. Story is king. The heart of any good support letter is a good story. It’s not five to seven incomplete stories that don’t resolve; it’s not a bunch of statistics without context. It’s a good old fashion story. Somebody somewhere did something. Pick one to two great stories to build your letter around.
  2. The people you impact are the heroes. Look for ways to highlight the amazing work that the people or populations you work with are doing. Try to eliminate as many “I did this” and “I led that” statements as possible. Let the people you work with shine, because that’s the story we really want to hear.
  3. Link the reader to the story you’re telling. They’re the ones that are sending you out to do the work and make an impact. They give time, energy, and resources to make it all happen. Draw them into the special thing happening in your organization. Congratulate them on the work of giving that they do. It’s heroic.

The Key Is to Connect Giving to Impact

It’s that simple. Your donors give, volunteer, and partner with you in a way that makes the mission of your organization achievable. Great support letters call this out and invite people deeper into connection with what’s happening.

Bad support letter copy is about you: “Give to my vision so I can go do my thing.”

Good support letter copy is about gratitude, partnership, and connection: “You’ve changed so many lives through your giving, thank you. Let’s partner together so this work can keep happening.”

Ultimately, you’re the connector. You connect people and a cause. You connect people who have resources with a way to serve other people who need something.

How To Talk About Yourself

At this point, you’re probably picking up on a theme. Generally, writing a support letter is not about you. If you go down that path too frequently and overshare from a place of desperation, it’ll stop motivating people to give and drive donors away.

That doesn’t mean that you never share personal stories. People want to know if you’re getting married, having a kid or if something really significant is happening in your life. It just can’t be all the time. It’s a support letter, not a blog.

Talking about yourself is kind of like salt—too much and the letter is ruined, not enough and it comes across bland. The key is to sprinkle just the right amount of ‘you’ into your letter, without overdoing it.

The Big Story of Fundraising is Transformation

When you’re thinking about writing a support letter, it’s important not to forget the big story of fundraising: transformation. That’s the thing people actually want to read about: somebody somewhere did something, and their life is totally different as a result. They got their life back on track, they got a new job, they have healthy relationships, they graduated, they got out of poverty, they learned a valuable skill, they grew in their spirituality, they see the world differently now.

Great support letters tell transformation stories. They talk about healing, growth, justice, and adventure. The stories we want to hear are stories about how people are growing towards something good. Transformation is what makes support letters great and it’s what keeps people reading.

Everyone Gets Something Good 

The thing about writing great support letters is that everyone gets something good. Your donors get to be more compassionate, generous, and connected to a specific issue or cause. The population you work with becomes transformed and empowered to do good things in the world. And you’re invited to see your work through a lens of gratitude and thankfulness. Everyone gets something good.

So, go and write great support letters. Tell compelling stories about amazing heroes doing phenomenal work. Connect your donors’ giving to the transformation happening through your organization. And, occasionally, include some cute baby pics—those are always a hit 😀