Crafting the Perfect Fundraising Letter

Each summer, I eagerly anticipate the announcement of the next year’s 3-Day event series schedule. When the 2014 3-Day schedule was posted today, I was happy to see that the 2014 San Diego 3-Day will take place on the same weekend in November that I have come to love. My 2013 event is 109 days away and I am ready to start fundraising for 2014!

As a 3-Day coach, I hear from participants who tell me they don’t know what to say in their fundraising letter. My response is always, “Tell me why you became a 3-Day walker.” It‘s amazing how easily the words then flow. Inspired, tearful or celebratory, I love hearing what motivated them, and after listening to their story, I tell the walker, “Congratulations. You just wrote your fundraising letter!”

One walker who needs no help writing his fundraising letter is Burt Lipshie. Burt started his 3-Day journey in 2004 in San Diego and has not stopped walking since! Burt completed his 15th 3-Day in Boston this past weekend, and is preparing for his 16th and 17th 3-Day journeys in Chicago and Dallas. I asked him to share the secrets of his fundraising success.

  • “My fundraising is fairly easy,” he told us. “I send out some inspiring and heartfelt emails to a whole lot of people, and money comes in.”
  • If you’ve participated in the 3-Day before, simply telling the story of your experience can become the perfect fundraising letter. “Probably the most powerful moment for me was speaking at the 2006 Dallas 3-Day Camp show – telling the story of my beloved cousin who lost her battle with breast cancer. Being in her hometown, with her daughters in the audience, was about as emotional an experience as I have ever had in my life. People still come up to me on the Dallas walk to tell me they remember it.”
  • “In late March or early April each year, I send out my first fundraising email. It goes to all of my colleagues, my friends, and family. I often remind them about the loss of my cousin, and how I got inspired to begin this journey. I include the awful statistics of how many men and women fight and die from breast cancer and any new advances in the fight against breast cancer. I remind them how much we have already donated together (now over $150,000!) and encourage them to keep up the fight.”
  • “I think I have been successful because my message reaches a fairly large group, and because almost everyone has, either directly or indirectly, been affected by this monster. Every month or so I send out updates, and include anything that will remind them of the horrors of breast cancer, and the need to fight it with all we have.
  • Many people think fundraising the second (or third, or tenth) time around will be harder. But for Burt, with each year’s fundraising letter, he has even more of a story to tell. “As a member of the 3-Day family, I have met so many extraordinary people, all dedicated to the same critical cause, and who embody the spirit of kindness. The children holding signs. The people coming out of their homes to offer water and candy. Then there are the Survivor-Walkers. There are no words to adequately describe them.”
Burt Lipshie is all smiles along the 3-Day route.

Burt Lipshie is all smiles along the 3-Day route.

How do you inspire your donors when writing your fundraising letter? Share your stories and advice in the comments below.