Fundraising Letter or Speech for School: How to write a persuasive donation letter to raise funds for your students or school
Are you looking for ideas and tips to help you write an inspiring donation or appeal letter to solicit funds for your school from parents or other organizations?
Just give me a few minutes of your time and I will share with you practical tips and ideas to help you write a donation letter.
I love to write but nothing gives me joy than to write appeal letters to raise funds. Three years ago, I was asked my friend who is an educator and head of one of top Jewish schools in New york to come up with a speech to raise $10 000.00 for his school. Not an easy task right?
I think i did my best and i understand that a parent actually donated the amount they wanted. I enjoyed working on that script and felt good about it because i felt it was a wonderful way of making a difference in the lives of students whose foundation is rooted in godly faith.
As you know, it’s not so easy to ask people for money. But peolple will give you cash to support you cause if you know the right techniques to use.
One guy used a clever technique and his simple but profound letter helped raised funds from rich guys in a certain part of The US. It was written by an advertising great, Bruce Barton in 1925.
Let’s first look at it. Afterward, we will analyze it and see if we can glean a few ideas from it to help you write your own fundraising letter for your school.
Here you go:
Donation Letter For School Example
In 1925, Bruce Barton, founder of the BBDO agency, wrote a fundraising letter to 24 rich men who all replied with at least $1,000.
Here, in full, is that letter.
Dear Mr. Blank,
For the past three or four years things have been going pretty well at our house. We pay our bills, afford such luxuries as having the children’s tonsils out, and still have something in the bank at the end of the year.
So far as business is concerned, therefore, I have felt fairly well content. But there is another side to a man, which every now and then gets restless. It says: “What good are you anyway? What influences have you set up, aside from your business, that would go on working if you were to shuffle off tomorrow?”
Of course, we chip in to the Church and the Salvation Army, and dribble out a little money right along in response to all sorts of appeals. But there isn’t much satisfaction in it. For one thing, it’s too diffused and, for another, I’m never very sure in my own mind that the thing I’m giving to is worth a hurrah and I don’t have time to find out.
A couple of years ago I said: “I’d like to discover the one place in the United States where a dollar does more net good than anywhere else.” It was a rather thrilling idea, and I went at it in the same spirit in which our advertising agency conducts a market investigation for a manufacturer.
Without bothering you with a long story, I believe I have found the place. This letter is being mailed to 23 men besides yourself, twenty-five of us altogether. I honestly believe that it offers an opportunity to get a maximum amount of satisfaction for a minimum sum. Let me give you the background.
Among the first comers to this country were some pure blooded English folks who settled in Virginia but, being more hardy and venturesome than the average, pushed on west and settled in the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina.
They were stalwart lads and lassies. They fought the first battle against the British and shed the first blood. In the Revolution they won the battle of King’s Mountain. Later, under Andy Jackson, they fought and won the only land victory that we managed to pull off in the War of 1812.
Although they lived in southern states they refused to secede in 1860. They broke off from Virginia and formed the state of West Virginia; they kept Kentucky in the Union; and they sent a million men into the northern armies. It is not too much to say that they were the deciding factor in winning the struggle to keep these United States united.
They have had a rotten deal from Fate. There are no roads into the mountains, no trains, no ways of making money. So our prosperity has circled all around them and left them pretty much untouched.
They are great folks. The girls are as good-looking as any in the world. Take one of them out of her two-roomed log cabin home, give her a stylish dress and a permanent wave, and she’d be a hit on Fifth Avenue.
Take one of the boys, who maybe never saw a railroad train until he was 21: give him a few years of education and he goes back into the mountains as a teacher or doctor or lawyer or carpenter, and changes the life of a town or county. This gives you an idea of the raw material.
Clean, sound timber – no knots, no wormholes; a great contrast to the imported stuff with which our social settlements have to work in New York and other cities. Now, away back in the Civil War days, a little college was started in the Kentucky mountains. It started with faith, hope, and sacrifice, and those three virtues are the only endowment it has ever had.
Yet today it has accumulated, by little gifts picked up by passing the hat, a plant that takes care of 3000 students a year. It’s the most wonderful manufacturing proposition you ever heard of. They raise their own food, can it in their own cannery; milk their own cows; make brooms and weave rugs that are sold all over the country; do their own carpentry, painting, printing, horseshoeing, and everything, teaching every boy and girl a trade while he and she is studying.
And so efficiently is the job done that – o a room rents for 60 cents a week (including heat and light) o meals are 11 cents apiece (yet all the students gain weight on the faire; every student gets a quart of milk a day) o the whole cost to a boy or girl for a year’s study – room, board, books, etc., - is $146. More than half of this the student earns by work; many students earn all. One boy walked in a hundred miles, leading a cow.
He stabled the cow in the village, milked her night and morning, peddled the milk, and put himself through college. He is now a major in the United States Army. His brother, who owned half of the cow, is a missionary in Africa. Seventy-five percent of the graduates go back to the mountains, and their touch is on the mountain counties of five states; better homes, better food, better child health, better churches, better schools; no more feuds; lower death rates. Now we come to the hook.
It costs this college, which is named Berea, $100 a year per student to carry on. She could, of course, turn away 1500 students each year and break even on the other 1500. Or she could charge $100 tuition. But then she would be just one more college for the well-to-do. Either plan would be a moral crime.
The boys and girls in those one-room and two-room cabins deserve a chance. They are of the same stuff as Lincoln and Daniel Boone and Henry Clay; they are the very best raw material that can be found in the United States.
I have agreed to take ten boys and pay the deficit on their education each year, $1,000. I have agreed to do this if I can get twenty-four other men who will each take ten. The president, Dr. William J. Hutchins (Yale 1892), who ought to be giving every minute of his time to running the college, is out passing the hat and riding the rails from town to town.
He can manage to get $50,000 or $70,000 a year. I want to lift part of his load by turning in $25,000. This is my proposition to you. Let me pick out ten boys, who are as sure blooded Americans as your own sons, and just as deserving of a chance. Let me send you their names and tell you in confidence, for we don’t want to hurt their pride, where they come from and what they hope to do with their lives.
Let me report to you on their progress three times a year. You write me, using the enclosed envelope, that, if and when I get my other twenty-three men, you will send President Hutchins your check for $1,000. If you will do this I’ll promise you the best time you have ever bought for a thousand dollars.
Most of the activities to which we give in our lives stop when we stop. But our families go on; and young life goes on and matures and gives birth to other lives. For a thousand dollars a year you can put ten boys or girls back into the mountains who will be a leavening influence in ten towns or counties, and their children will bear the imprint of your influence.
Honestly, can you think of any other investment that would keep your life working in the world so long a time after you are gone?
This is a long letter, and I could be writing a piece for the magazines and collecting for it in the time it has taken me to turn it out. So, remember that this is different from any other appeal that ever came to you. Most appeals are made by people who profit from a favorable response, but this appeal is hurting me a lot more than it can possibly hurt you. What will you have, ten boys or ten girls?
Great letter, right? Written in 1925 by writer and legend Bruce Barton, this letter incorporated many of the elements that make a fundraising letter ticks.
Small wonder it got a 100 percent response and went on to become one of the most successful appeal letters any school has ever sent out. If you give it one more read, you will discover tremendous insights that you can apply towards writing your appeal letter. We’ll come back to look at it further.
But, first, let’s consider what you should first look at before you even jot down your ideas on paper. If you are delivering a speech, then it makes sense to learn how you can write and deliver a school fundraising speech. That can fairly be easy to write if you have lots of experience in this arena. If you don’t, then you have to spend time to figure out what goes into writing one.
There are several videos you can watch and learn from. You can even go a further by narrowing down your choices. For example, if you are looking for ideas about this: fundraising ideas for high school, you can insert that keyword into the search box of video sharing platforms like youtube.com and others and several videos will pop up.
By the way, here are some idea-rich videos you can watch and take cues from.
Fundraising speech for school example----video#1
Fundraising speech for college sample----video#2
Next, decide what the purpose or intent of your appeal letter. To do that, you can ask yourself the following questions which will serve as useful pointers for your letter.
- Are you planning to send a thank you letter to your parents for a kind gesture or some donation?
- Are you writing to invite them to help with some kind of project?
- Are you asking them to donate some cash to buy school supplies?
- Do you want to serve as volunteers?
- Are you requesting for some specific items?
Action Tip: Choose one time from the above and do a little brainstorming and first create an outline for your letter.
Now, let’s go back to that masterpiece. We are going to break it down step by step so we can use my observations to put your thoughts together.
First, here’s the salutation or introductory remarks.
Dear Mr. Blank,
Comments: One of the best ways of endearing yourself with your readers is to start with their names. It even makes more sense when you are writing to parents who are your main stakeholders. Well, if you are writing to the entire school and circumstances won’t permit you to address them by name, you can use other alternatives like:
- Dear Concerned parents
- Dear Cherished parents
- Dear Caring parents
I leave you here to explore for more appropriate and endearing ways of connecting with your stakeholders.
Ok….it’s not over yet. Let’s look at parts of the letter.
‘’ For the past three or four years things have been going pretty well at our house. We pay our bills, afford such luxuries as having the children’s tonsils out, and still have something in the bank at the end of the year. So far as business is concerned, therefore, I have felt fairly well content. But there is another side to a man, which every now and then gets restless. It says: “What good are you anyway? What influences have you set up, aside from your business, that would go on working if you were to shuffle off tomorrow?”
Comments: Do you realize how this letter began with events happening where he is. The headline of your letter should do a great job of sucking the reader into the body copy and that’s what this great writer did admirably.
You can always use stories, real or imagined to do that. Stories could be in one or more of the following forms:
- Case studies or success stories of how your school has impacted the community
- You could share how a student benefited from being educated at your school and their station in life
- You could talk about the importance of education by throwing in what happens when students are deprived of quality education
- If you are requesting for specific items. You can paint a graphic description of the benefits of those items and what will happen to your school if you don’t get them.
- If your fundraising efforts coincides with a bit of history about your school, you can share that bit of history with your reader
Let me ask you this: Do you have in mind any good illustration you can use to enhance your appeal? Think about it.
We are not done yet. Let’s still look at excerpts of the above template.
‘’ And so efficiently is the job done that – o a room rents for 60 cents a week (including heat and light) o meals are 11 cents apiece (yet all the students gain weight on the faire; every student gets a quart of milk a day) o the whole cost to a boy or girl for a year’s study – room, board, books, etc., - is $146. More than half of this the student earns by work; many students earn all. One boy walked in a hundred miles, leading a cow. ….''
Comments: Did you notice how one idea is built on another like building bricks? That’s how it’s done. If you have seen most school fundraising letters, they are more to the point and succinct.
One more thing….you might want to ask your donors to give specific items or specific amounts of cash. It’s common to see most appeal letters riddled with all sorts of solicitations.
For example, in a letter, you might be shocked to see a school asking for school supplies, cash, and building materials in that same letter. Can you imagine that? Unfortunately, that overwhelms the giver and you might end up not getting what your school or organization truly deserves.
The trick here is to ask for one thing at a time. Or you can create multiple campaigns targeting different sections of your house file to ask for what you need.
Now, let’s look at this next example. It needs to be worked on extensively, which is why I included it there. Please go grab your pen and notepad and let's see what we can do about it. I will talk less and give more hints and assignments so you can do a little brainstorming.
Dear Ms. White,
Comment: That’s an excellent salutation. But what are some alternatives you can use instead of Ms. White?
Ok...let's continue with this
This is Harold Owens, representing ‘Open Hands Charitable Society’.
Comment: I think this is a wonderful way of breakingthe cycle of cynicism and creating rapport with the reader.
Ok...let's continue with this
I am writing this letter to you to seek financial donations for supporting a High School located in your community.
Comment: I don’t know. But this letter is being sent to those who don’t know much about this high school. The writer could have written briefly about this school: its vision and mission. You can work this into your own letter if the donor is not too familiar with that you are talking about.
Ok...let's continue with this
We run this school for the poor with the help of donations & other help that we receive from various sources. Presently, we are raising funds for buying uniforms and text books for the underprivileged students.
Comment: They should have included how many students will benefit from this gesture and what the total cost would be like…Then give suggested amounts. This writer asked for any amount. That’s a no...no... no... in fundraising appeals. Never, ever forget that. Specificity always win.
Ok...let's continue with this
We believe that education should be the basic right of every child, and we are making our share of efforts to make it possible, but we always have to seek support from people like you as we are a non-government organization.
We are appealing you to contribute to this noble cause. You can donate any amount that you think is right for this cause. This small action of yours is hugely beneficial to the poor children around you.
We thank you for your kind attention and look forward for your help.
You can reach us at 564-854-5264, or you can also email us at our id given on our website.
Your immediate action will be hugely beneficial for the children.
Comments: It's always a neat idea to include your contact details. But it’s also nice to reinforce what you asked them to give in the closing remarks. You can give them options for giving back: by check, secure online payment gateway or some other payment forms. There seems to be so much distrust concerning the transmission of payments. So, always give your donors several options.
Thanks & Regards,
Open Hands Charitable Society
Let’s face it. One of the most difficult letters you'll ever write is a fundraising or charity letter because most folks hate it when they have to part with money. However, when we ask for cash and use it well for causes so dear to the hearts of donors, they are likely to give their cash and time to support your charity in good times and bad.
Over the years, psychologists have found that donors are moved not by what they read or hear per se. But when certain psychological triggers are applied to your message, donors are moved to support your cause even if the economy is not so great.
When you work with us to craft your fundraising or donation letter, we’ll collaborate to make sure your donors receive not just another letter, but a compelling one that moves the donor to give to your organization generously.
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