Will your cat be inspired by your letter?
Have you had enough? If you hear one more rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in your local Fred Meyer’s are you going to go stark raving mad? Me neither. I say, “Bring it on.” I love Christmas. I love the decorations, snow globes, and the movies – ah, the movies! I’ll watch “White Christmas” with Bing, Danny, Rosemary, and Ellen for the 142nd time this year and cry when they sing “Count Your Blessings” and “We’ll Follow the Old Man.” When Bing and Rosemary get together as snow miraculously falls in Vermont and they sing “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” yeah, that’ll be me sniffing away. It never gets old. I admit it, I love Christmas!
And believe it or not, I also like getting Christmas letters. Even the ones that ask for money. I read each one – some more closely than others – and the ones that really move me…guess what? I’ll send them a donation. Here’s the thing: Not many of them move me (which is really good for my bank account but sad for the non-profit).
Last week’s post went over basic formatting issues to make your letter more accessible and easy to read. This week, it’s all about making your content compelling.
1. Begin with an inspiring opening. Your first sentence should generate interest right off the bat and make people want to continue reading.
Here are the opening lines from four different letters:
Our children are wonderful theologians.
I thought I might die from embarrassment.
Rose was late to crawl. She was late to talk. She was late to walk.
What a gift each of you are to our church, to the community, and to me.
Get the idea? Because it’s compelling and you want it to stand out, make your first line a one-sentence paragraph.
2. Have a theme. The first line lets your reader know what the overall subject matter will be. You’ll want to let that theme run across the rest of your letter. For example:
- Children revealing the light of Christ was a theme throughout one letter.
- A person overcoming embarrassment with the help of community theater was another letter’s theme.
- The story of Rose and how she found acceptance ran throughout another.
- The phrase, “What a gift each of you are to our church, to the community, and to me” was repeated five times throughout another letter (see the entire letter here).
3. Don’t bury the lead. This is ultimately an ask letter. You are requesting that the reader send money. Somewhere, preferably early on, you need to be clear that you want people to give a financial donation. Let the reader know what you will do with the money they give. Hint: they don’t want to give to a pay off a deficit. People do want to give to something that will change the world.
Here are two of examples:
Without you, ministry could not happen. Without your generosity, fewer people would experience the love of Jesus Christ.
Your gifts make it possible for us to continue to be Christ's presence in a hurting world. Please consider an additional year-end gift to further our ministry together.
This is where YOU come in.
Because of your financial support, people like me can find their voices.
Because of you, people like me feel less isolated, less anxiety-ridden.
Your gift to Pentacle Theatre helps people like me overcome what seem like insurmountable obstacles to become their true selves.
There you have it. Your letter should provide easy-to-read inspiring content. If those two simple criteria – easily read and great content – are met, people who receive your letter will naturally feel moved to give. I’m not offering a money back guarantee, but you'll increase the odds of moving people with your words following these tips. Good luck!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a 142nd screening of “White Christmas” I simply must see.
P.S. It's not too late! My annual Christmas offer to review your year-end letter still stands. I’ll make suggestions on ways to make it even more effective. Shoot me an email with your letter attached. I can’t wait to read it.