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The Big Ask: 5 Tips on Making a Strong Letter Request to Donors

1. Introduce Your Organization/ Project

Give your funders a good understanding of your organization or project in a concise and simple manner. Avoid language that is busy, unclear and muddled with details. Put yourself in the position of the reviewer; donors receive countless requests for funding and reviewing these summaries can be tedious. Simplify your letter and summary by sticking to the most important information and leaving out needless details and conflated language.

2. Dollar Amount

Funders shouldn’t have to guess how much monetary support you are seeking. Your letter should include a clear dollar amount and explanation as to how those funds will be spent. Being vague with money requests can give the impression that you do not have a clear agenda or sense of your project. This is likely to leave those reviewing your application with a negative first impression.

3. Shared Interests

Ask yourself; how relevant your organization or project is to your potential funder? Do you share the same goals and values? Has the funder worked with other donees similar to yourself? Sending the same application to multiple funders is problematic for many reasons. Funders should be treated as part of the team, not like a bank. Doing the background work to ensure there are overlapping interests within a partnership is an essential step in the application process. These shared interests should be highlighted in your letter.

4. Specificity

Similar to the first point, use appropriate language and detail. Avoid broad and general wishy-washy statements. Be specific. How will be money be used? What do you expect the long-term impacts to be? What goals or work will be achieved through the funding? Funding requests should be fairly specific so the donor understands the investment and commitment they would be undertaking. Give as much detail as possible without writing a novel. Often the funder will request further information if there is interest.

5. Follow Up

Be consistent when communicating with funders. Respond immediately to information requests or questions. If you are denied a request, it is courteous to respond and ask for feedback. Take the feedback seriously and apply it to your next application. Often rejections are not about the worthiness of the project or organization, but more to do with the overall ‘fit’ or some specificities in your application. Feedback provides great learning tools for future applications and demonstrates a good character that your funders are sure to remember.

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