Writing your solicitation letter

Written by on June 4, 2010 at 10:56 am

On May 12th, I mailed 106 solicitation letters with self-addressed stamped envelopes. Other than follow-up emails, this is my one and only method of fundraising. As with the last five MS Challenge Walks in which I've participated, it's proven effective: thanks to 41 generous donors, I'm currently more than halfway to my $5,000 goal.

Writing a solicitation letter is hard — especially if this isn't your first Challenge Walk, as you don't want to simply reuse the same letter last year. The more effort you put into crafting your plea, the more inclined your potential donors will be to read it and respond. This part gets harder for me each year as I try to find an approach I've never used before. Fortunately, I've found many successful themes.

I've tried being thankful: "I am grateful to be able to walk across Cape Cod for those who cannot."

I've been sarcastic: "Walking 50 miles is not something one does for fun. But the money raised in this walk goes to fund research for MS, and the sooner we find a cure, millions of people all over the world will suffer less from the effects of this disease … and then we will be able to stop walking!"

I've described some of the people who have inspired me on the trail: "I'm walking for Jeannie, who trained for last year's Challenge Walk so vigorously that she was able to stand up out of her wheelchair and walk the first two miles by herself. I'm walking for Marianne, who stands for endless hours along the walk route, hugging every walker who is fighting to find her a cure."

And this year, I've related one story from the trail in detail, as you can read on my Participant Center page.

Writing

Follow these guidelines to help you put pen to paper.

Whatever your tone, there are several essential facts to include in a good fundraising letter:

  • A brief description of multiple sclerosis. Not everyone knows what this disease is, who it affects, or how it manifests itself.
  • Your connection to MS. If you have a personal motivation, your donors will understand they're supporting not just a cause, but you.
  • A description of the MS Challenge Walk: where, how long, and your fundraising goal.
  • Instructions on how to donate, both by check and by credit card. The easier you make it for your donors to take action, the more likely it is they will.

Not everyone is a wordsmith, but not everyone needs to be. You can find two sample fundraising letters online in Microsoft Word format. To those, I would like to offer my own template:

Dear [name],

Hello! I hope this letter finds you healthy and well. I am writing regarding this September, which will mark my sixth participation in the MS Challenge Walk. This year, the event is a two-day, 30-mile event that raises money for and awareness of multiple sclerosis, which affects my mother.

MS is a neurological disorder in which the immune system degrades a person's nervous system, causing loss of sensation and control. [Someone you know] is one of more than 400,000 people in the U.S. affected with MS, which is a progressive disease, meaning that [someone you know]'s condition could worsen in time. It is up to us to do what we can toward treating and curing this condition that affects those closest to us.

I am thankful that I will be able to walk 50 miles while others struggle to walk 50 feet. If you are similarly grateful, then please help me with my challenge to raise $1,500 for this cause. If you can help us achieve a world free from MS, please write your tax-deductible check to the NMSS and return it to me in the enclosed stamped envelope by September 6th. Donations can also be made on the Internet with a credit card by visiting [your Web site]. No donation is too small, as every dollar adds up.

I am truly grateful for your support and feel fortunate to be able to walk the streets of Cape Cod for those who cannot. With your help, I hope to be able to make this year an even greater success than the last.

With much appreciation,

[Your name]

What challenges or successes have you had writing solicitation letters? Share your obstacles and ideas here!

Ken joined the MS Challenge Walk in 2005, more than a decade after his mother was diagnosed. After walking for three years and 150 miles, he switched to the support crew and now rides his bicycle along the trail, providing whatever encouragement (and snacks!) he can to the 600 walkers. He is also an alumnus of the event's steering committee and is this site's webmaster.

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