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9 mistakes to avoid in your appeal letter this fall

It’s that time of year again, when I talk about appeal letters and how they can be better! If you want to make your appeal letter better, just click here and let’s chat!

Here’s the appeal letter I got from a nonprofit where I used to be a monthly donor.  Read it over, then I’ll tell you what they could have done better.

“Dear Mazarine,

Next year will mark Living Yoga’s 20th year of service to the community! What started with just one volunteer teaching a weekly yoga class at a correctional facility has grown into more than 160 volunteers offering 34 weekly classes at 23 partner locations throughout the Portland Metro area . we now serve an average of 660 students each month in prisons drug and alcohol treatment centers and mental and behavioral health programs.

Most of our students have faced multiple traumas related to addiction, abuse, incarceration, poverty, violence, mental illness, social injustice, and homelessness. If left untreated, these traumas present serious physical and emotional costs to the individual, and to our community as a whole.

If there is one thing that Living Yoga’s 20 years of service has taught us, is that yoga works. With benefits like impulse control, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance, yoga and mindfulness practices are an ideal treatment tool for helping people to heal from the physical, emotional, and psychological impacts of trauma. Through yoga, our students build resilience and create a place of refuges within themselves.

This giving season, please consider investing in your community and in Living Yoga’s 2018 goals:

  • Train and launch volunteer teams for 2-3 new partner sites including a re-entry program and a detoxification facility.
  • Increase support for former students with scholarships to Living Yoga’s volunteer teaching training, as well as resources to continue their yoga practice after completing their program.
  • Advance our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with more continuing education opportunities covering trauma, oppression and privilege, and Spanish language teaching skills.

At Living Yoga, we believe that within each of us is the capacity for good, and when our goodness is reflected back to us, we thrive. Please donate to ensure our programs remain strong, sustainable and equitable in the years to come.

Sincerely,

Lauren Booth”

(who is this?)

So, I looked her up. She’s the executive director. I didn’t know that. Her title should have been under her name.

There was also a story in the sidebar, which I skipped over almost instantly, because it was SO HARD TO READ.

I’ll make it easy for you.

The Sidebar says, in hard to read white text on a red background:

“A Full Circle Story”

Rachel began drinking alcohol when she was fifteen years old. The habit eventually became so consuming that she attempted to end her own life to “just be done with it.”

That was when Rachel found Living Yoga. During her time at Letty Owings, a recover center for new and pregnant mothers, Rachel practiced yoga weekly.

After completing her program at Letty Owings, Rahel attended a Living Yoga volunteer teacher training. She will soon be teaching living Yoga classes at Letty Owings center,s haring the practice that transformed her life with others.

Rachel’s story speaks to the powerful benefits of yoga on an individual level, and to the inspiring ripple effect of the practice.

To learn more about Rachel and her yoga journey, visit www.living-yoga.org.

“I felt like I finally had the support that I needed to stay clean, become a productive member of society, and a present parent for my son.” -Rachel

First of all, when I read an appeal letter like this, I know the nonprofit did not invest in help to write their appeal. PLEASE nonprofits. INVEST in a professional writer. You will make back their fee ten times over. TRUST ME.

How could this appeal letter be better?

THE FIRST SENTENCE SUCKS! You INSTANTLY lost me. I do not care that it has been 20 years, 30 years or even 50 years of living yoga. That does not matter to me. Yoga is a discipline that is literally thousands of years old. Why lead with this sentence? WHY WOULD A DONOR CARE ABOUT THIS? Why didn’t you talk about my previous giving, or the fact that I’ve attended Living Yoga events in the past? Why didn’t you make it more personalized to me? Or, why not start with a thank you? Or, failing some small amount of personalization,
Why Not Lead with a Story? Why not do that? You might say, but Mazarine there’s a story in the sidebar! DUDE it’s HARD TO READ! I’m not an old person and it’s HARD TO READ! I skipped it until I had to type it up for this blog post! I would never have read it. YOU LOST ME! YOU SERIOUSLY LOST ME IMMEDIATELY. PLEASE PLEASE do not make a reverse type fail like this. Your donors will simply NOT CARE and you will LOSE THEM.
Numbers, numbers, numbers. Who cares? WHO CARES whether it’s been 660 students each month, or 6,000? There is NO CONTEXT for these numbers. Has it improved? Gone up significantly over the last year? Has other funding gone down? Why is this good? Why is this bad? I have simply NO REASON TO GIVE from these numbers.
Paragraph two and three read like a fricking grant proposal. Did you actually read this out loud before you printed it out and sent it to thousands of people? It was SO REMOVED from the actual drama of the story. So much boring language. PLEASE! Your donors want to be inspired! Excited! Intrigued! Please tell them something new, tell them something they’ll share with friends.
The story about Rachel: Was so dull. There was hardly any detail to help the reader be there. It was a completely blank template. It could have been about anyone. Tell them a truly transformational story and help them BE THERE.
It was one page. It could easily have been two pages or three pages and they could have helped me care more. The back of the letter was completely blank. I would not have cared if it was 4 pages, and only black and white, if they could just have given me a good story to sink my teeth into!
I had no idea who was writing the letter. There was no personalization from the writer, either. It was all about us. We. Never, “I love living yoga because X” or “I became the executive director because Y and I am so proud that this year our team (with your help) accomplished Z.”
No donor centered language at all. Nada. I mean, you don’t have to do this for every letter. But for someone who has previously been a donor? Why not? And why not share that the goals of living yoga are also the values of the donors they’ve surveyed? Why not say, because we’ve talked with you, our board, our volunteers, and donors, we’ve come up with these goals that reflect who we are as a community, and who we want to be.” ?
Grade 14.5 reading level according to the Flesch-Kincaid grade level score.

AWFUL. It should be grade 8 or below babe.

Want more appeal letter advice? I can help you make your appeal letter better.

Want 43+ more tips on how to write successful appeal letters? Just go here!

OR if you have time, you can DIY, here are some more articles to read too!


My first appeal letter
How to Write an Appeal Letter Part 1
How to Write an Appeal Letter Part 2
The Inner Game of Writing Your Appeal Letter: Part 1
The Inner Game of Writing Your Appeal Letter: Part 2

How many stories should you put in your appeal?
CASE STUDY: How do you edit an appeal letter to make it even more effective?
How to get money in the mail
How to get more money through direct mail, interview with Jules Brown
3 Steps to Getting More Money In the Mail
Does adding extra stuff to your appeal mailing work?
How often to communicate with your supporters?

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