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How to Create a Stronger Annual Appeal Letter

Author: WildApricot
April 29, 2022
🕑 8 min read

Every nonprofit knows the importance of staying on top of fundraising efforts. The money donors bring in helps to fund new projects, and turns your team’s big ideas into reality. But running an organization also comes with covering the less flashy expenses—and that’s where writing your annual fundraising appeal letter comes in!

When the money you need comes from the support of others, it’s essential to reach out and nurture those donor relationships. Knowing what to include in an annual appeal letter, and how to word it just right, makes all the difference in motivating your donors to give

Once you learn how to write an annual fundraising appeal letter, you can guarantee that your annual fund will be set for the coming year. But first, here’s some useful information to know:

What Is an Annual Fund and Why Does It Matter?

To understand what an annual appeal letter is, first you need to get familiar with annual funds. Annual funds pay for your organization’s day-to-day expenses.

This could include things like…

  • Physical overhead costs
  • Staff salaries
  • Software fees

Raising money for your annual fund isn’t just a once-a-year project—it works best when you do it throughout the year! Treating it as an ongoing campaign not only raises more money, but also helps you nurture your relationship with your donors. You can identify your strongest supporters, track their giving patterns, and figure out how to foster connections with new donors.

That said: your annual appeal letter can be a cornerstone for making sure your annual fund is healthy.

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What Is an Annual Appeal Letter for Nonprofits?

Think of your annual appeal letter as a bid to raise money for your annual fund!

This letter goes out to all your active donors, and is an opportunity to:

  • Fund your general expenses: With your regular costs covered by your annual fund, you can focus on special funding projects throughout the year.
  • Strengthen your relationship with new donors: These new donors are still getting to know your nonprofit. Laying out your accomplishments and clearly stating the potential impact of their future donations will make them feel secure in where their money’s going.
  • Encourage past donors to give again: There’s a big difference between a one-time donation and a yearly donation! Building positive relationships with past donors can do wonders for your fundraising efforts.

One way to keep up the health of your nonprofit is by diversifying revenue streams. Raising money for your annual fund gives your organization a nice cushion in case of emergency. If one or more of your streams falls through unexpectedly, a hefty annual fund guarantees you can still meet all your operational needs!

Your Annual Appeal Letter Template

Lucky for you, we’ve got an annual appeal letter template to make things easy. Ready to download your copy now? Fill in the form below!

annual appeal letter template

And if you want to make your own annual appeal letter, keep reading on. We’ll cover everything you need to know to make a winning one.

11 Most Important Elements of a Good Annual Appeal Letter

A successful annual appeal letter can make a major difference in the amount of money your nonprofit brings in. But don’t get intimidated! If you include the most important elements of a good annual appeal letter, there’s no way you’ll go wrong.

Here are the 11 elements you should definitely include in your next annual appeal:

  1. Start with a hook: The “hook” is the opening statement of your letter. An expertly crafted hook should immediately grab your reader’s attention, and motivate them to keep reading through to the end. If your donors are used to getting a lot of mail (and they probably are!), you want to make sure that your appeal letter immediately stands out.
  2. Have consistent timing: No one wants a friend who only contacts them when they need a favor! If your annual appeal letter is the only time your donors hear from you, they are less likely to donate. Sending letters and updates throughout the year makes your appeal letter feel like a natural part of your relationship.
  3. Write to your audience’s interests and emotions: People who donate to nonprofits often have a personal connection with the nonprofit’s mission. Your appeal letter should remind people why they are passionate about supporting you.
  4. Give a goal: Your donors want to know that their donations will help to accomplish something. Remember to be specific! “Reaching our goal of $100,000 will provide school supplies for over 1000 students this year” is much more compelling than “your donation will help fund education.”
  5. Keep it simple and concise: In an age of flooded inboxes and heaps of mail, people are always looking for something skimmable. Make sure your readers can understand all of your key points without having to think too hard.
  6. Drive urgency: A persuasive letter will convince your donors that they should donate now. Unfortunately, a donation that’s saved for “later” sometimes won’t happen at all. But whether you’re focusing on impulsive or deliberate giving, your donors will be motivated by a goal that feels like it simply cannot wait.
  7. NEVER go saccharine: While it’s important to appeal to peoples’ emotions, remember that this is a professional relationship! Going saccharine (or overly sweet or cutesy) runs the risk of sounding insincere. Be authentic, and build genuine relationships between your nonprofit and your donors.
  8. List your accomplishments: People are far more likely to support your organization if they know they can trust you. Show off your stellar track record and your goals will shine brighter.
  9. Let them know their impact: How have donations really made an impact? The act of giving should make people feel good about themselves, and inspire them to keep giving in the future.
  10. Generate a specific CTA: A CTA, or “call to action” is a brief line of text that urges your intended audience to take action! In the case of an annual appeal letter, this is the call for people to donate to your organization. If your reader is already feeling inspired by your letter, a CTA will give them an immediate way to channel their desire to give.
  11. Say thank you before AND after the gift: Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude! The funding your donors provide is what allows your organization to thrive. A genuine thank you letter will thank them for both their consideration and for actively following through.

Try looking through some annual fund appeal letter samples online. Do they inspire you to donate? If so, figure out why, and incorporate it into your own letter.

If you’re looking for annual appeal letter examples that follow these steps, check out our Free Annual Appeal Letter Example!

9 Tips for an Impactful Annual Appeal Letter

If your donors are giving to multiple nonprofits, you want to be sure that your organization’s annual appeal letter stands out. Here are some must-do’s:

  1. Set a SMART Goal… and KPIs: A SMART goal is “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.” Making this goal, along with your KPIs (key performance indicators), helps you set your objectives and measure your success through to the end. Be sure to include both of them in your fundraising plan!
  2. Choose your channels: There are many ways to reach your donors. Some will be more responsive to emails, and others will appreciate good old fashioned snail mail. Some people even prefer the urgency of a fundraising text, or the creativity of a fundraising video! Don’t be afraid to use multiple channels, and track how effective they each seem to be.
  3. Get the right fundraising tools in place: Having the right fundraising software in place is crucial to manage your donors’ response. If you have the tools to accept donations online, manage your donor database, and build social media campaigns, you can simply focus on bringing in the donations! (And did you know Wild Apricot can help you streamline all of these processes?)
  4. Connect with existing (and former!) donors: Existing donors are more likely to donate again! Remind them what you’ve already accomplished together, and show them what new goals you have.
  5. Find your evangelists: There’s no marketing quite like the power of word-of-mouth! Connect with the people you KNOW will hype up your organization, share your social media campaigns, and encourage others to become donors.
  6. Get your board involved: Not only can your board of directors help set fundraising goals, but they can also help take some concrete action. Whether they’re donating themselves, getting you connected with new donors, or helping make thank you calls, your board members are an incredibly valuable fundraising resource!
  7. Make donating easy: When people give to your organization, they are not only donating their money—they are also giving their time. Keep the process user-friendly with an easy-to-navigate website, online processing options, and ready-made donation forms. Also consider using tools like text-to-give campaigns! The easier it is to give, the more likely you are to see the results.
  8. Look ahead to donor stewardship: Building strong donor stewardship is essential to getting your organization ongoing funding. Always use personalized, donor-centric language, and recognize the impact of their donations. When your donors feel valued, they’re more likely to continue supporting your organization.
  9. See how you did and revise for next year: This is where your SMART Goal and KPIs come in. Reviewing your end results is a great way to measure your success. From there, you can troubleshoot for when your next annual appeal letter is needed.

Anyone can write an annual appeal letter, but you have the power to create one that makes a genuine difference for your organization!

Simplify Donor Management with an All-in-One Platform

It’s no secret that donor management is a big task. Maintaining your website, keeping up with your donor database, tracking payments, sending out regular emails—it’s easy to get lost in the administrative work required to run your nonprofit.

Wild Apricot offers a solution: an all-in-one program, Wild Apricot saves you time on the administrative front so you can focus on the big picture for your nonprofit. You can make a stronger donation page, manage your donor information, and even build a custom website without any tech experience required.

Managing the day-to-day tasks of your organization doesn’t have to get in the way of helping it grow! Set up your 30-Day free trial today and see the difference it can make.


A nonprofit needs a strong vision to kick off, and stable funding to survive. Writing an effective annual appeal letter is one way to secure that funding through your donors. Even better, it builds a community that will be proud to support you in years to come.

Connect with your donors, build up that annual fund, and feel confident in what you’ve accomplished! With your general expenses funded for the year, your team will be able to come up with even more creative ways to develop your nonprofit.

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