The Art of Writing Your Christmas Appeal
Many moons ago when I was teaching a freshman course at Willamette University I asked students, “Is writing a gift or an art?” We would then discuss the difference between a gift: something that you are born with, and an art: something that takes practice. In my book, writing is an art. And, if you believe Malclom Gladwell’s theory, it will take you about 10,000 hours to get really good at it. But, fear not. If you don’t have an extra 10,000 hours to sit around and write and write and write, here are some tips as you put together your year-end Christmas appeal:
- Make it easy to read.
o Don’t create long paragraphs of dense text.
o Have lots of white space.
o Make it at least 12-point font.
o Indent your paragraphs so it looks less like a business letter.
- Don’t use jargon. Some of us churchy types like to throw around really cool words like “eschatological” or “hermeneutics.” You don’t want your average churchgoer to feel compelled to visit the Glossary of Religious terms to interpret your letter.
- Tell a story. Surely God has worked in your life or in the life of someone in your congregation (and if not, you may want to consider a new line of work). Briefly describe that person (and ask their permission to use his/her name or pseudonym) and tell how God and the church have touched them.
- Explain where their money is going. People like to have a visual image of what good things their dollars will accomplish. Be sure you talk about ministry and not about keeping the lights on.
- Include a picture. Place a photo of one person in the top right-hand section or in the right side of the first paragraph.
- Write in the first person. This is personal. Forget what your English teacher said about using “I” in papers. This is a letter from you to people you know and (hopefully) care about.
- Enclose a self-addressed envelope. OK, this has nothing to do with writing, but it is important. Make it easy for people to give.
- Sign your letter. Preferably by hand, using real ink in a color other than black. And consider multi-tasking: As you sign the letters, pray for your congregation.
- Type your name under your signature. For example, Rev. I. Am. Thankful. Sadly, some people may have no idea who you are.
- Add a P.S. This is usually the first thing people read. Remind people to come to a special service and thank them for their faithfulness.
With enough practice, this kind of letter will actually become fun to write. What a gift that will be to anyone who reads it.
P.S. If you send me your Christmas appeal letter, I will be happy to take a look at it and give you some feedback. Send your letters to email@example.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.