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Donation Request Letters Must
Give Donors a Reason to Give Again

by Alan Sharpe

I have on my desk a direct mail fundraising appeal from a hospital that I once supported with a donation. I gave them a gift of $20 as an experiment, to see how, and how often, they would write back.

Across the front of this envelope are these words: ďYour 2007 Annual Renewal.Ē

A phrase like that wouldnít normally surprise me, or disappoint me, but it did when this package dropped through my mailbox back in February because that was the first time Iíd heard from this hospital since I made my donation. And I made my donation last year. In 2006. June 12th, to be exact.

So do the math. I did.

I made my donation on June 12, 2006. I didnít hear from the hospital again until February 20, 2007. Which means I was obviously off their radar screen for seven and a half months. Although they were not off mine. I was watching for the mailman every day to see how they would respond to my gift.

I canít say I was disappointed with their response to my gift because they didnít respond to my gift. They ignored me. For seven and a half months. No letters. No newsletters. No phone calls. No emails.

Which is why the headline on their February appeal startled me.

ďYour 2007 Annual Renewal.Ē

That headline tells me that the hospital thinks I should renew my support, automatically. Regardless of how they treat me. But thatís where we disagree. This hospital needs to give me a reason to renew my support, and not just in their annual renewal letter.

Like most donors, I wonít support an organization for long that cares more about my money than it does about me. I wonít renew my support of a charity that expects me to be uninformed and generous at the same time. I wonít support what I donít believe in. And I canít believe in something that I donít understand. And Iím not likely to understand the needs of an organization that writes to me only once every seven months.

I pay my mortgage automatically. I renew my insurance automatically. I pay my taxes automatically. I have many incentives for doing so. But I donít renew my charitable support automatically. If you want me to give again, give me a reason. A good one. And give me that reason long before you ask me to renew my gift.

© 2006 Alan Sharpe. Reprinted with permission.


About the Author: Alan Sharpe, fundraising letter writer, instructor and author, is president of Raiser Sharpe, the full-service direct mail fundraising agency that helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using cost-effective, compelling, creative fundraising letters. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at
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