10 Ways to Knock Your Cover Letter Out of the Park

A few weeks ago, I shared that it’s time to re-think the self-mailer to get the best results from your planned giving mailings. Today, I’m giving you some insight into a simple but (many times) overlooked aspect of those mailing packages: the cover letter. This is often the first part of the mailing your donors will see, so it’s important to make it count.

Stelter’s editorial team writes thousands of cover letters for our nonprofit partners each year and have identified some key ingredients to success. Here are their top 10 tips for ensuring your cover letter makes an impact.

  1. Shorter Is Better
    Aim for a one-page, single-spaced letter. If you have a great story to feature that will keep readers engaged, longer is OK. But don’t ramble.
  1. Show Them You Know Them
    Use variable data for a personalized greeting. You might also consider using variable data throughout the letter to target different audiences (society members, financial advisors, local donors, etc.).
  1. Be Personal
    Write in first person and use “you” and “your,” so the reader feels like you are speaking directly to him or her.
  1. Establish the Need
    Be specific and clear-cut on the needs of your organization so that readers know exactly why their support is necessary.
  1. Present a Solution
    Tell your readers what they can do to make an impact.
  1. Keep It Simple
    Avoid technical planned giving jargon. Terms like “bequest” and “charitable gift annuity” can make the reader feel overwhelmed.
  1. Thank Them
    Don’t forget to say thank you at least once in the letter.
  1. Offer More
    Drive your readers to your newsletter or website for more information.
  1. Sign Off With Style
    The person signing the letter needs to be someone accessible and recognizable at your organization, preferably the person who will follow up on any response.
  1. Make It Easy
    Include contact information in the letter, including a phone number and email address, so readers can easily get in touch.

P.S. Include a P.S.! Use it wisely—s­ometimes it’s the only part of the letter that gets read. Drive your reader to take an action: request a brochure, contact you or visit the website.

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