In the first post, Behind the Scenes Look at the Appeal Creation Process, we talked about how to manage the process. Today, we will look at actually writing the appeal.


Donors want to know three things:

  1. Why your organization? Tell your emotional story of why you are invested in this cause. 
  2. Why now? Explain why giving is important. 
  3. Why your donor? Explain emotionally and very donor-centered how the donor can be a hero.


Why emotional stories? There is psychologically behind this. We are wired for stories. Stories interest us and help us retain information. Using emotion when telling, turns off the part of the brain that is logical and statistical. This part of the brain over thinks giving and will talk itself out of it. The emotional side of the brain sees a connection between all of us and wants to give. There are more complicated studies out there but that is the jest.


So what does an emotional appeal letter look like?


Think about a three-act play. The first act (first paragraph) sets up the problem. The second act (second paragraph) is the confrontation. The stakes will get higher and the action rises. The third and final act (last paragraph) is the resolution which, of course, involves the donor.


The first sentence gets the donor’s attention. Use emotional words and the word “you” as often as you can while you explain one problem in the first paragraph. Make it personal by introducing and focusing on one client.


The second paragraph continues the client’s story and explains the urgency of their situation. The stakes for the client rises and the urgency is greater.


The third paragraph is the resolution. What is it that gets the client to a good situation? It’s the donors who support your organization! Tell about the success of the donor.


The fourth paragraph is your closing paragraph. Tell donors about who else you would like to help and how they can do it. Frame it as helping people like your client.


Always add a P.S. This is your call to action and often the most read part of a letter. When readers get a letter, they skim it first. The salutation and P.S. will be read first and then the reader decides to read further. Spend a little time here.


A two-page letter is the length I strive to achieve. Studies show that the longer the letter the higher the donations to the campaign. So more than two pages are okay. Just make sure you are telling a compelling story if you go longer than two pages. The story is the key here.


Here is an example. (And feel free to make it your own with your own story.)


Donor Name

Donor Address

City, State Zip




Dear (Salutation),


As I write, I keep thinking about a client I recently met named “Jane”. Jane came to XYZ organization needing a safe place for her and her kids. You see, she was running from her boyfriend and an abusive relationship.


Jane’s last straw was one night two weeks ago when, during an argument, her boyfriend beat her so badly she wound up in the hospital for two days. She was trying to protect her kids and instead was brought near death. If she didn’t get out, the stakes were not just losing her kids but her life. Jane was terrified. Where could she go? A nurse slipped Jane XYZ’s contact information.


Jane summoned the courage to call. A Case Manager from XYZ came to the hospital and within an hour Jane and her kids were in our Safe House program and away from Jane’s now ex-boyfriend.


You did this. And I am so grateful. It was through donations from people like you that Jane had people to help when the situation seemed hopeless. Because of you, our outreach efforts made sure Jane’s nurse had the information to get out ready for Jane. Because of you, a Case Manager was on call and ready to jump into action. Because of you, Jane and her kids are protected in our Safe House program and getting physical and emotional help for their trauma. Thank you!


Unfortunately, there are so many more Janes in the world that want and desperately need your help. XYZ needs $3,000 to help one like Jane. Can you support a woman like Jane with a gift of $50? Together, we make a difference in battered women’s lives!




Sandra L. Smith

President XYZ


P.S. Women like Jane need your help escape their abusers. Can you give $50 to our Safe House program and help the Janes of the world find safety? To make your end of year gift count for 2018, please send it in by December 31st.


Now go back and use bold, italics, and underline to make the most important parts of the story. This will help draw the reader into the story. Make it skimmer friendly.


Other P.S. options for other times of the year-

P.S. I would love to show you the impact your support provides. Contact me to schedule a tour of our facilities.


P.S. Jane urgently needs your support to complete the process. You can help by donating $25 today.


P.S. Our boys and girls need a good outcome like Joe’s. Please return the reply card by December 31st to have a great start to the new year.

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