Escaping the glow and writing appeals

March Break is a quiet time in the advancement office at my institution — the students are away, the faculty members are enjoying a well-deserved rest, and even some of my colleagues have taken the week off for a personal holiday.  In fact, at this particular moment, I am alone in the office.  For some it might feel eerie or an excuse to nod off, but for me it means the perfect time for brainstorming and letter-writing.  Specifically, an Annual Giving appeal to young alumni.

It’s not often that we sit down to do a task that doesn’t involve our computers.  That being said, I’m sure many people write solicitation letters exclusively on their computers.  For me, it’s an opportunity to take a break from the glowing screen, pull out a legal pad, and get to writing.  The photo above is what my desk usually looks like when I’m writing: a good inky pen, a red ballpoint for revision, a print-out of last year’s appeal, and a first draft of this year’s.  I spend time writing out potential “headlines” for the letter.  I spend time reading over last year’s letter to make sure this year’s holds on to only a few elements (if any) but aims to be noticeably fresh and new.

I brainstorm some outside-of-the-box ideas to make this letter stand out.  With young alumni in particular, what could grab their attention?  Will a creative approach spur them on to make their first gift?  Is it ease & convenience they look for?  Is it a worthwhile designation?

What do you think???  How do you approach letter writing?  What are your favourite tips/tricks to get in the zone?  What about encouraging young alumni giving?  What are your success stories?  What have you learned?


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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