Sooooo I was cleaning out my files the other day and I found the first appeal letter I ever wrote.

Join me in 3 brutally honest appeal letter critiques, starting with my very first appeal letter!

Appeal Letter 1: 2006 domestic violence appeal letter that I wrote

So, what did this appeal letter say?

It reads, in its entirety,

“Dear Friend,

Thank you for your previous support of (our nonprofit). We’re writing to let you know it’s an exciting time to be involved with (our nonprofit)! Last year we provided shelter for 385 women and children, answered 2,991 crisis line calls and provided outreach services to 1,359 women and children.

Programs we are introducing this year include:
— Increased bi-cultural and bi-lingual Latina support through our new staff member Karla,
— Outreach to businesses as a resource to recognize the cost of domestic violence,
— Anonymous cell phone program from Verizon’s Hopeline, and
— A restraining order program, so that any woman who come to us can get support through the court network for this procedure.

Your holiday season gift will bring new life and new hope to women and children who are survivors of family violence. During the holidays, family violence often escalates and calls for help increase. With your caring and generosity, at-risk women and children in our community can have a safe holiday season and begin to rebuild thier lives.

“(This nonprofit) provides an invaluable service to women and children when they are in an extremely vulnerable time in their lives. Family violence is a much larger problem than most people realize. Thank goodness (this nonprofit) is here to provide suport and guidance for those truly in need.” -Sheriff Roberts, Sheriff Department

“Today my daughters and I live a very happy and peaceful life. They are able to be normal bubbly children. Without the support of (this nonprofit), I would not have been able to provide a safe and happy future for my children.” -Lisa

Children do well when their parents do well. And parents do better when they live in complete communities that actively support families. We can all play a positive part. Thanks to hundreds of generous donations each year, we are able to make a difference in stopping family violence in this county and the tri-county area. I appreciate every volunteer and every contributor for making it happen- with compassion and with generosity.

Thank you for doing all you can to empower women in our community.

Executive Director

terrible appeal letters

This was my first appeal letter ever. It was such a piece of crap

Here are the things wrong with this appeal letter.


It was one page.

It was 11 point font, single spaced, with no indents to make it easier to read.

It said “dear friend”

It didn’t have the donor’s address at the top.

The restraining order language made it clear that I really didn’t know the impact of the program, or what I was talking about.

It didn’t acknowledge their giving history. It just said “previous support.”

It said “Winter 2006” instead of the date

It had vague language that says “children do well when their parents do well. We can all play a positive part.” OK, BUT HOW???

We didn’t talk about WHY the holidays are a critical time for domestic violence.

The sheriff didn’t talk about people he’d seen in bad situations.

There was no story.

It was not donor centric.

It had no p.s.

It used numbers instead of stories. (TERRIBLE)

It had no clear call to action. It says your gift will bring new life and hope. But otherwise it doesn’t say please give, or use the enclosed envelope to give, or anything. UGH.

It didn’t communicate what would happen if we didn’t get the gift. ARGH

It said the terrible overused phrase, “MAKING A DIFFERENCE” ARGH ARGH

Did we do anything RIGHT with this appeal letter?

Well, yes, we had two testimonials, one from a community leader, a sheriff, and from an anonymized recipient of our services. That was something, I guess.

We said “Your holiday season gift will bring new life and new hope to women and children who are survivors of family violence. ”

We also said “With your caring and generosity, at-risk womeand children in our community can have a safe holiday season and begin to rebuild their lives.”

These two sentences were good because we acknowledge the donor’s part in creating a world that we all want.

I give this letter a D -. IT SUCKS. We made $35,000 with it, and I think it was only because of the cultivation we did with events, and the previous executive director’s work to create community support.

All right. Tomorrow I’ll share the the next brutal appeal letter critique! If you work in healthcare, it will definitely speak to you.

Don’t make MY mistakes! Save yourself time, money, and make your appeal letter the best it can be.


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