Dear Fundraiser: How To Write a Cover Letter I’ll Actually Read (Sincerely, A Society Member)

List, offer, creative. It’s our mantra around the Stelter office. Know your list, give them an offer that invites a response, and finally build creative that reinforces the desired action.

When it comes to lists, there’s no group more important than your society members. These self-identified legacy donors have a special connection with your organization. In your marketing, you need to show your gratitude and recognize their generosity in a personal way.

Think of it like this: Legacy donors have made an expression of trust and commitment to your cause. Their gift deserves to be honored.

One of the best spots to thank society members is through a dedicated cover letter. At Stelter, we have many clients who do just that: They segment their cover letters by society and prospects. Over time, we’ve developed a few best practices.

5 Things a Legacy Donor Wants You to Know

If a legacy donor were to tell you what they want from your communication, they would say:

1. Make me the hero. I want to know that you received and appreciate my gift. Help me understand how my gift has or will impact others. Also (and no offense nonprofit), get out of the way and make this a story about me and those I’ve helped.  

Nathan’s Note: Switch your writing intentions from, “We want to tell donors about the great things we’re doing” to “We want to tell donors they did a great thing—and why it matters.”

2. Get me invested. Speak to my heart. Save lots of numbers, words like “rate charts” and jargon like “charitable gift annuity” for deeper-dive educational materials.

3. Guide my way. I’m busy; tell me the mailer’s purpose. Why should I read it? Are you thanking me? (See #1.) Maybe you’re demonstrating the good work of donors like me through an impact story or sharing facility renovations or program upgrades. Great! Get my attention by previewing what’s inside.

Nathan’s Note: A helpful phrase to refer to is WIIFM. Ask yourself, in the headspace of your society member, What’s in it for me?.

4. Remind me that I’m part of a group. Sorry, I don’t remember the legacy society group’s name (and I may not know I’m even in one), but it’s great to hear that others like me have made this same commitment. Quoting the great marketer Seth Godin, tell me that I’m part of a tribe and people like me do things like this.

5. Be on my side. I like to feel appreciated and see how my gifts make a difference. When you provide tools, like resource guides and access to estate planning experts, I’m continually reminded that you’re in my corner.

Two Example Cover Letters

Here are a few helpful pointers from two of our clients.

A Final Reminder

By focusing on this key part of your list, you can deliver more personalized messages and deepen your relationship. Here’s your WIIFM: By communicating regularly to your legacy society group you: 1. Remind them of the importance of their future gift, which will encourage them not to change their mind, and 2. Open the door to further discussions about more or larger gifts.

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