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Contributors:Libby Chernouski.
Summary:

The resources in this section discuss various aspects of writing donation request letters. This includes a discussion of the rhetorical situation and standard formatting/style issues. Writing strong donation request letters can increase the likelihood that your target audience will be receptive to your request. 

Beginning Your Donation Request Letter

Writing a successful donation request letter depends upon understanding the genre and its conventions as well as your unique rhetorical situation.

Donation request letters are written by many people for many different purposes, and yours will have its own unique rhetorical situation. There are a couple things to consider before beginning your writing task:

Contributors:Libby Chernouski.
Summary:

The resources in this section discuss various aspects of writing donation request letters. This includes a discussion of the rhetorical situation and standard formatting/style issues. Writing strong donation request letters can increase the likelihood that your target audience will be receptive to your request. 

The Rhetorical Situation and Donation Request Letters

Every written text responds to a specific rhetorical situation. No two rhetorical situations are the same, so learning how to assess your unique rhetorical situation is essential to crafting successful documents. However, there are a few aspects of the rhetorical situation surrounding donation request letters can be a good starting point.

Audience

Analyzing the target audience is essential to writing a successful donation request letter. There are many ways to research your audience. Depending on the recipient, you may be able to access information regarding their previous donation practices, including causes supported and amounts given. Your research in this area will help inform every aspect of your letter, including what you ask for and how you ask it.

Their Ability to Donate

Often, the recipient of a donation request letter is able to donate, just not at the level of an official organization, program, or event sponsor. Those who are able to donate at a more substantial level will often have an established method of doing so, such as a grant proposal. The level of donation you are requesting should not exceed the recipient’s ability to donate.

Perhaps you are writing to an organization, business, or individual who can provide resources that are not monetary. A business or company may have a product that will meet your need, or an individual may be able to donate their time and effort in the form of volunteer hours. What is it that your recipient can donate to help your cause? Asking different recipients for different donations based on their differing abilities is one method of better addressing your rhetorical situation.

Their Values, Attitudes, and Goals 

Analyzing and reflecting on your audience to discover their values, attitudes, and goals will help you craft an effective donation request letter. Your success hinges on your ability to accurately read your audience in order to provide the best explanations, the most convincing justifications, and the most appropriate benefits. For example, will your audience be moved by an emotional appeal? A brief but moving narrative about a successful moment for your organization might persuade them to support your cause better than numerical statistics describing your success, while if you are writing to a local business, the owner might be more likely to become involved if your success is quantifiable. Almost every aspect of a donation request letter is influenced by your understanding of your audience, so significant research in this area is recommended.

Their Previous Knowledge

Often, you will be writing to individuals, businesses, or organizations that may have never heard of your sender or who you represent. Or, you may have established a relationship with the recipient through past interactions. Be sure to anticipate your audience’s questions regarding you and your cause. You may consider including supplementary information about you or the body you represent with the letter, if appropriate, such as a brochure or a website address. Your donation request letter itself should always make clear who you are/who you represent and what your cause is.

The Larger Context

Anytime we engage in discourse, whether written or spoken, we are entering into the larger social context of our rhetorical situation. This can include social or political issues at the local or national level, prominent news stories, fluctuations in the economy, and more. Considering the larger social context in which you will be asking for a particular donation for your particular cause is important for considering how to frame your need and your request.

Contributors:Libby Chernouski.
Summary:

The resources in this section discuss various aspects of writing donation request letters. This includes a discussion of the rhetorical situation and standard formatting/style issues. Writing strong donation request letters can increase the likelihood that your target audience will be receptive to your request. 

The Genre of Donation Request Letters

The business letter format is the basic underpinning of the donation request letter. Traditionally, letters should be one or two pages – your audience may be busy and preoccupied with other things, so presenting the information as efficiently as possible is to your benefit. But that does not mean that this is all that you can include in your donation request. Consider other materials that might be useful for the recipient, such as brochures, newsletters, or photographs. If your audience is unfamiliar with you or the group you are promoting, providing more information to help them make an informed decision is a good move.

Each feature of the traditional business letter must be reassessed according to the purpose of requesting a donation for your event, company, or organization. In addition, the donation request letter has some features of its own:

Inside Address

Traditionally, every business letter includes the inside address, or the name and address of the recipient, but knowing to whom to address your donation request letter may be difficult. Often, it is the PR department that will be handling donation requests for organizations or companies, but smaller businesses may not have this department, and individuals certainly won’t. Other times, the decision whether to donate or not is left to an executive within the company.

This may require some research, but knowing who should receive your letter is integral to making the connection that will, hopefully, lead to a donation. Find out who your recipient will be, and then include their name, title, and company or organization (if applicable) in your recipient’s address.

Greeting/Salutation

Research your audience to find out who your recipient is and address your greeting to them, using their name whenever possible (e.g. Dear John Doe) instead of generalizations (e.g. Dear Friend). Depending on your audience, you may choose to address your recipient on a first-name basis (e.g. “Dear John”) instead of using their full name and title. If the recipient has a history with your organization or company, or if you have worked with him or her personally before, a more personal greeting might be appropriate.

Opening

There are many different ways to begin the body of a letter. The way you choose to open your letter will come down to who your audience is and what you know about them. However you choose to open your letter, make sure your opening appeals to the values of your audience. Your introduction should do the following:

Introducing your organization or company should happen early on in the letter. However, be wary of overwhelming your reader with too much information about your organization, event, or company. Keep the information pertinent to the topic of the letter and aimed at establishing a connection with your audience. It is not the sender who should be the focus of the letter, but the opportunity for the recipient to become involved.

When introducing an event, make sure to include information regarding time and date. Helpful information to include in any letter is where you or your organization or company operates and brief mentions of your past success in similar or related endeavors.

It is very important that you establish a connection with your audience, whether it be an individual, an organization, or a company. You may do this by appealing to their goals or values that you uncovered when researching your audience. For instance, referring to how your particular event will help raise awareness of local businesses when writing to a local business connects your event (and their forthcoming donation) to an important goal of that particular audience.

You want to engage your audience in a way that will hold their attention and motivate them to continue reading your request (and hopefully meet it!). Depending on what you know about the values of your audience, this may be in the form of an anecdote, a statement of public success, a thought-provoking question, or a relevant and interesting fact.

Thanking your audience in the beginning of the letter creates a confident tone and connects you to your reader by assuming a supportive relationship.

Often, many of these moves can be accomplished simultaneously. For instance, referencing the organization’s past engagement with a particular community when writing to a local, privately-owned business for the purpose of fundraising for another local event will help to both introduce the organization and to establish a connection with the audience, who is presumably invested in the surrounding community.

Closing

Depending on the ethos, or the public values, of the business, organization, or event you are writing on behalf of, your closing will be more or less formal in style. For example, you might use a more informal “take care” if your business values a familial relationship with its clients, or the more formal “regards” if professionalism is more highly valued. However, a more personal closing will help you connect to your audience. Traditional closings such as “sincerely" or “thank you” are appropriate for a professional letter, but there may be a closing that is used by your organization or company, for instance, that you want to incorporate.

In your closing, you will want to include the sender’s name, full title, organization/company, and contact information. The recipient should know exactly who to talk to and how to reach them given this information. Make sure that the person you include as the sender is the one who will actually be talking to the recipient, if the occasion arises. Always include a personal signature above the sender's name, hand-signed if possible. This makes your request more personal.

Thank your reader again for their support. This displays confidence and establishes a connection with your audience that suggests that you both are allied in your cause.

Contributors:Libby Chernouski.
Summary:

The resources in this section discuss various aspects of writing donation request letters. This includes a discussion of the rhetorical situation and standard formatting/style issues. Writing strong donation request letters can increase the likelihood that your target audience will be receptive to your request. 

Language Considerations When Writing Donation Request Letters

Successful donation request letters are specific, conversational, and concise.

Tone

The tone you use will depend on your audience, but a general rule when writing donation request letters is that using informal language will help you to connect with your audience. When describing your cause, your needs, and your request, choose language that is approachable rather than stiff and technical.

Use “you” to address the recipient directly and personally. Although your letter needs to introduce the sender and the sender’s cause, focus more on the recipient, how they can donate, and what their donation will accomplish. Rephrasing statements about you or your cause to focus on the recipient and using “you” language helps do this. Similarly, referring to the body you represent as “we” will help make the letter sound more personal.

Specificity 

Being clear and specific is a good practice in writing in general, but it becomes especially important when you are stating a need and suggesting a path of action to your reader. The more specific your writing is, the more clearly audience will be able to imagine the situation and the impact they could have by donating to your cause. For more infomation on specificity in writing, see the resource located here.

Conciseness

It is important to be concise when writing a donation request letter. You want to include only as much information and as many details as are necessary to accomplish all the things your request must. Because your audience is preoccupied and your medium is limited (one or two pages), you want to make the best use of your space by being concise and efficient. For more information on writing concisely, click here

Be strategic when editing your letter for conciseness. For instance, your description and justification of your need should be the most substantial, though still concise. This section of your letter must convince your audience to donate, while the introduction to your company or organization may not need to be more than a line or two, especially if you’ve included supplemental materials.

Contributors:Libby Chernouski.
Summary:

The resources in this section discuss various aspects of writing donation request letters. This includes a discussion of the rhetorical situation and standard formatting/style issues. Writing strong donation request letters can increase the likelihood that your target audience will be receptive to your request. 

What Medium is Best for Donation Request Letters?