Cheerleading Fundraising » Fundraising Prayer

Make Your Direct Mail Fundraising Appeal Letters More Friendly With Informal Design

There’s a scene in the movie, Anne of Green Gables, where Anne gets on her knees and prays by her bed. Marilla is sitting on the bed, listening. Anne concludes her prayer by saying to God, “I remain respectively yours, Anne, with an e.”
Anne then asks Marilla how she sounded. “Fine,” says Marilla, “if you were addressing a business letter to the catalog store.”

Marilla’s point was that Anne’s prayer to God should not have been impersonal and formal. The same goes for your fundraising letters. They need to be personal and informal, and they need to look personal and informal. Here are some design tips to help you achieve those goals:

Justify paragraphs ragged right
Formal business, government and legal correspondence features fully justified paragraphs. So do books. But you want your appeal letters to look like personal letters, the kind we used to compose on typewriters. So don’t fully justify your paragraphs. Make them ragged right.

Indent the first line of paragraphs
If you want your letter to look formal, format all your paragraphs flush left. If you want them to look informal, indent the first line of each paragraph.

Avoid the newsletter look
You may be tempted to include photographs, sidebars, call-outs and other graphic design elements to make your letter look more appealing. But you will actually reduce it’s appeal, literally. The more your appeal letter looks like a bulletin or page from a newsletter, the less it looks like a piece of personal correspondence from one individual to another. You want your donors to read your newsletter. But you want them to respond to your appeal letter. So make your fundraising letters look like letters.

About the author
Alan Sharpe is president of Raiser Sharpe, a full-service direct mail fundraising agency that helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors. Sign up for free weekly tips like this, and discover other helpful resources, at

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