October 14, 2009

Crafting Winning Appeals: A Letter to Board Members

The Chronicle gives fund raisers the chance to have their peers suggest improvements to drafts of their appeal letters.

Today, we offer a letter submitted by Deborah Brody Hamilton, director of marketing and development at the Keystone Center, a public-policy group in Washington centered on environmental, energy, and health issues. Ms. Hamilton’s letter is an annual appeal sent to the organization’s board members and former board members asking for contributions.

To offer feedback to Ms. Hamilton, please post your comments or suggestions in the comments area. As always, we hope the feedback will be constructive.

Here’s Ms. Hamilton’s draft letter:

Dear ________:

We are writing this letter to reach out to you as a former member of the Keystone Board of Directors. Thank you for your continued support of and interest in The Keystone Center, especially during the past year. A year ago at this time, we were watching the economy collapse and battening down the hatches to weather the economic storm. This meant sacrifices all around; expenses have been slashed, project budgets have been managed down to the penny, and staff gave up all salary increases and matches to their 403(b) plans.

Amidst all the economic and political turmoil, The Keystone Center has held its own. The staff have worked long hours on critical issues such as H1N1 vaccinations, energy efficiency and climate change, health care reform, and freshwater sustainability. They have provided exciting new learning opportunities to teachers and have continued to improve our education programs, which are grooming the next generation of leaders.

As a former member of the Board of Trustees, your continued leadership has:

• Helped to seed new projects.
• Supported the annual Awards Dinner, allowing us to come in on budget at a time when other organizations’ events have been down by 20 or 30 percent.
• Support The Keystone Center financially through program grants, unrestricted donations, and contributions to our new Innovation Funds in Energy, Environment, and Health, and much more!

Traditionally, current and former Board members have also been our strongest individual funders, giving us generous personal gifts to help sustain our operations. These personal gifts not only help underwrite our operations, but provide solid evidence of your commitment to The Center and its mission – something many foundations and other donors watch for keenly from board members. As we enter the final quarter of 2009, we ask that you help us once again support the Keystone Center with your personal gift.

To make this as easy as possible, we have enclosed a pledge form and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. You’ll notice that this year, for the first time, we are requesting that you make a personal gift for 2009 and pledge your gifts for 2010 and 2011. This will help us to plan more effectively and to budget more efficiently.

Please take a few minutes to fill this out at your earliest convenience, and please be as generous as you possibly can. This year, more then ever, every gift is critical in helping us get to a break-even budget.

With our sincere thanks,

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments space below. To submit your letter for a critique, e-mail the Chronicle Web editor, Peter Panepento.