17 Feb Writing Renewal Letters
Unlike recruitment and appeal letters, (See A Dozen Rules for Writing Better Fundraising Letters), renewal letters aren’t complicated. They are short and to the point. The essential “case” for giving is that they gave last year and the year before. In fact they’ve given about this time every year since 1961. It’s time to “renew.”
Fundraiser’s Almanac: February
- Writing Renewal Letters
- Writing Appeal and Recruitment Letters
So don’t overly complicate the letter with unnecessary facts and figures and accomplishments and long-winded explanations of new projects. The letter should be warm and personable. It should list board members and/or key staff down the side of the letterhead (Board Directors give organizations credibility). It should get to the point quickly (in the first paragraph). It should express appreciation for last’s year’s gift and perhaps even mention how long they’ve been members. It should ask for a specific amount of money. It should have a PS note. And it should all fit on a single page.
It is good practice to rewrite your renewal letters at least once each year, and February is a great time to do that. Good renewal letters written now should last through the end of the year with only minor changes to the first paragraph.
Regarding the ask: the majority of your donors gave less than $100 last year. Asking for $100 this year (in the first renewal letter) is not unfair, and if you do so, the effort will return a great deal more money.
I hope it is obvious, but just in case it isn’t…..you should always ask in the first letter for a renewal gift just a bit higher than what they gave last year. So if a donor gave $100 last year, ask them for $150. So this $100 ask recommendation is ONLY for those donors who gave less than $100 last year.
Dear David, Member Since 2002
Last December, Bob and Ann Smith completed a deal that conserved about two-thirds of their wooded property along the lakeshore. This conservation success was made possible by people like you who had helped sustain Land Trust through annual contributions. When the Smiths were ready, Land Trust was there. On behalf of everyone here at Land Trust, I want to thank you! so much for your membership support and encourage you to renew at this time.
Please consider a gift of $100 or more this year to accelerate the pace of conservation work locally. If you are in a position to consider a significantly larger gift, please be as generous as possible. If $100 is not in the cards, please consider an amount that is more comfortable for you. No gift is too small to make a difference in land conservation!
By renewing today, you help make important conservation work possible and right here, close to home. So, please take a moment to use the enclosed form to renew your annual commitment to Land Trust.
And thank you in advance for your continued support!
P.S. Thank you for considering a gift of $100 or more to support land conservation in [State or Region]!
So now that you’ve written one, write two more along the same themes. (Donors responding to the first letter will not receive the second or third.) The second letter’s message is also short and sweet. “This is just a quick note to remind you that your membership with Land Trust expires this month. I want to thank you for your membership support last year and encourage you to renew at this time.” In fact, you can use almost the same language from there. It’s a reminder, not a completely new letter! Again the ask is specific and based on what they gave last year. You might even mention what they gave last year. “In 2014, you contributed $75 as you membership gift. Please consider a gift of $100 or more this year.”
The third letter’s message is all about not letting their membership lapse. The language is just a bit stronger and more urgent.
Dear David, Member Since 2002
Your membership with Land Trust expired last month! Please take a moment right now to bring it current.
By renewing today, you help make important conservation work possible and right here, close to home. Dues provide critical support for Land Trust and deliver proven conservation options to a growing list of private landowners and priority projects. As a member, you help make the mission – [insert your mission statement] – a reality.
So, please take a moment to use the enclosed form to renew your annual commitment to Land Trust. Your renewal gift of any amount is both highly appreciated and highly leveraged through foundation and public grants. Last year you gave $$$$. Please consider a similar amount this year.
Thank you in advance for your continued support!
- Use at least 12 point type and one-inch margins (if you have too many words, cut the number of words instead of making it tinier and harder to read)
- Don’t use graphics or embedded pictures – they are distracting
- Keep it to one page
- Separate the letters by four to five weeks
- Track number and percentage response to each letter and average gift for year-to-year comparisons
Photo credit: Fox by Walt Kaesler.