How To Increase The Size Of Donor Gifts With Fundraising Letters

By: Alan Sharpe

Do you want your donors to give more, do you want them to give more often, or do you want more of your donors to give?

If your answer is all of the above, here are some tested ways to increase the size of donor gifts using fundraising letters.

Ask for specific amounts

Stating the sizes of gifts that donors can make helps to overcome their inertia and prevents them from having to think up a gift amount (which may be too small) on their own.

Increase the size of your smallest suggested donation

If you feature an ask string in your reply device, increase the size of the smallest suggested gift, like this.

 $20  $45  $100  Other $______________

 $25  $45  $100  Other $______________

This simple adjustment will likely translate into larger average gifts, although your response rate may drop slightly.

Circle the desired donation

On the reply device that donors mail back with their gift, circle the second and higher amount. Beneath your circle, handwrite: Your gift of this amount will make a big difference.

Ask based on each donor's giving history

In the above example, you see that if you ask donors to give a donation of $20, $45 or $100, they are likely to make a donation of $20, $45 or $100. But what about your donors who are capable of giving at higher levels? What about your donors who sent you larger gifts than the ones suggested on your reply device?

One way to increase the size of average donations is to ask each donor to give a gift of the same size as their last gift. If Samantha's last gift was $150, ask for $150 this time. If Brad recently mailed you a gift of $75 (which is an amount higher than $45 but lower than $100 on your ask string), ask Brad for a gift of $75 in your next appeal letter.

Customized asks like this are costly in time (database manipulation) and production (customized printing for each reply device or letter), but the results can be spectacular. Again, this is worth testing.

Mail special appeals to major donors

Donors or member who send you gifts of $1,000 or more should never be told: Your gift of $25, $50 or even $100whatever you can managewill be much appreciated right now. In the same way that you should never ask a $100 donor for $1,000, you should never ask a $1,000 donor for $100. Asking major donors for major gift amounts will increase the size of average individual donations.

Upgrade donors each year to cover inflation

Another way to increase the size of donations is to invite your donors, perhaps once a year, to increase their gift amount by a given percentage to cover the cost of inflation. Example: If you can manage to increase your gift by 4% this year, from $50 to $52, that will help us keep pace with the cost of inflation.

Reduce your expenses

This step will not increase your gross revenue but it will increase your net revenue. Reducing your costs for design, printing, lettershop, postage and other tasks even if only by a few cents per package can boost your net revenue without much extra effort. Just make sure the quality of your appeal letters and packages does not decline.

 2006 Sharpe Copy Inc.

About the Author:

Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer, instructor, coach, author and newsletter publisher who helps non-profit organizations to raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using cost-effective, compelling, creative fundraising letters. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at

Read more articles by: Alan Sharpe

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