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Successful Fundraising Letters
Give Your Donors Conflict

by Alan Sharpe

Your fundraising letters will be more dramatic if you write them like a novel.

Every good novel follows a simple outline: conflict, development, resolution. The novel opens with a main character in conflict. The main character deals with the conflict. The story ends with the conflict being resolved.

Take The Da Vinci Code, for example. This fictional story begins with the curator of the Louvre Museum found murdered, a cryptic message written beside his body. The story develops with the main character trying to solve two mysteries: What secret was the curator protecting that led to his murder? And who is the mastermind behind his murder? The conflict is resolved at the end of the novel in a way that I will not reveal here. I have not read the book, and never will, but that is another story!

Your role as a copywriter of donation request letters is to structure your story in a similar way. You craft a dramatic opening that gives your donor a conflict to solve. You develop your story, showing how your non-profit organization has the people and programs that will resolve the conflictóbut only with the donorís help. Then you show how your donor plays a vital role in the unfolding drama, and how a donation right now will resolve your conflict and give your story a happy ending.

If your organization is typical, you will not have many occasions to write an appeal letter that begins with you finding a corpse in the Denon Wing of the Louvre, naked and posed like Leonardo da Vinciís famous drawing. But if you search hard enough, and if you pay attention to what your donors care about, youíll find drama in your day-to-day work.

Spin those stories using the novelistís conflict-development-resolution arrangement, and youíll produce a letter that your donors canít put down.

© 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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