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Do Your Donors Hear Voices?
(in Your Fundraising Donation Request Letters)

by Alan Sharpe


Fundraising letters are about people. People talk. So your fundraising letters should include the voices of people.

In a novel, the characters come alive only after you hear them talk. What they say, how they say it, when they say it, where they say it, and to whom they say it, deepens the meanings of the story and reveals things about the characters that cannot be explained in other ways.

Even when your fundraising appeal letter seems to be about preserving old growth forests, banning handguns or buying a mobile heart monitor, somewhere in the middle of your appeal are people. They may be staff, volunteers, clients, victims or someone else. Let your donors hear these people talking and you'll immediately make your letters more interesting and readable.

When you quote people in your fundraising letters, you personalize your ask and lend immediacy, intimacy and authenticity to cold reality. When you capture dialogue and things people have said, you bring your "characters" to life on the page.

Direct quotations in your donation request letters also add credibility to your claims. They give donors another way of looking at your challenge (what novelists call point of view). And they establish tone (anger, frustration, fear, irony) in ways that you cannot without sounding forced.

"Alan," you are saying, "give us some examples!"

"OK."

Imagine that in your fundraising letter for your diabetes association you are describing one of your clients, Clara Alveres, who is 71, has lived with type 1 diabetes for 50 years, and is in good health. You could string these facts out in a line as I just did. Or you could instead add credibility and warmth and personality to your letter by quoting Clara directly. Your sentence might look like this:

"Clara Alveres, 71, has lived with type 1 diabetes for 50 years. 'I've never felt better,' she says."

Or imagine that you're telling the story of Bill, who also has diabetes. You could tell your donors:

"Bill avoided diabetes complications?and ran a marathon?by following a simple recipe."

or you could instead bring Bill alive as a character by letting him tell your story:

"Just because diabetes runs in your family doesn't mean you can't run a marathon,' says Bill, who avoided diabetes complications by following a simple recipe, and completed the Boston Marathon in May."

According to Philip Gerard, author of Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life, quoting people adds texture beyond anything you can communicate as the author. Real voices of real people deepen your story. "Their words make it true," says Gerard.

© 2006 Alan Sharpe. Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author:



About the Author: Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer, instructor, author and newsletter publisher who 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 RaiserSharpe.com.



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