How Much to Ask For in Your Appeal Letter: One Consultant’s Take

How Much to Ask For in Your Appeal Letter: One Consultant’s Take


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


I’ve had the opportunity to review several appeal letters in recent weeks – comes with the job.

And I’m still surprised that so many fail to ask for money. The request is implied, to be sure, but it is not explicit.

Somewhere on every page of the letter, it needs to say “Please write a check for $50 today.” Or words to that effect.

Substitute phrases like “your gift helps,” and “with your help” just don’t cut it.


But heck, don’t just take my word for it. Test it. Divide your entire list into two statistically identical groups and mail a specific request for $50 to one half and a request for gift, or help, or support to the other half.

If you do this, please send me the results. I will publish everything I get.


I think the general reluctance to be more specific is related to a desire to use one-size-fits-all envelopes. You know, the kind with the oversized flap that lists all the possible ways and amounts to give in print tiny enough to squeeze too much information onto the flap. I think there is an underlying concern that if a donor has it in their mind to give $100 and the letter only asks for $50, they will give only $50.

Admittedly, the last time I tested this was ten years ago, but here’s what I still believe to be true today.

  • Asking for a specific amount money will result in more responses and more money raised – both.
  • Asking for $50 versus asking for an amount less than $50 (for example $35) will not depress results and does result in raising more money.
  • Asking for $100 versus asking for $50 depresses results but also raises more money.


Anyone care to advance an alternative theory? Please do, and test it, and send me the results. I will publish everything I get.


So here’s what I recommend doing with this information:

  • Use the one-size-fits-all envelopes ONLY for that part of your donor file that gave $100 or less last year.
    That will be most of them, so you will be able to use up all those flapped envelopes you purchased.
  • Use a printed response card and a #9 printed return envelope for everyone who gave more than $100 last year.
    Choose the ask amounts based on what you know about each donor individually, or at least in small groups. For example, you might have a $250 group, a $500 group, and a $1,000 group.
  • Ask in the letter (on every page of the letter) for $50 if they have never given or if their most recent gift was more than two years ago.
    You want these folks to come back, and to some extent, you are more concerned that more people give than you are how much they give.
  • Ask all current and recently lapsed donors for $100.
    The ask amount will probably depress results (even though those who want to give less still could), but you will raise more money.


But definitely ask for something specific!


Happy Thanksgiving everybody!




Photo by Skeeze courtesy Pixabay


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