Writing a letter to ‘lapsed’ donors

23 Feb

From time to time I make small donations to NGOs, just to see the kind of communication I get in return. Last year, I’d made a donation to a large NGO that raises a load of money from individual supporters. I subsequently stopped giving.

This is the letter I got from them last week.

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 11.24.15 AM

Let’s take a good look at the letter.

The last time we heard from you was on 2/21/2017 when you made a contribution of 500 for 1 Child with average working days of 232. 

This opening para tells me nothing, except that the NGO has a database and that I’m on it. It also tells me that the form letter that the NGO uses for its lapsed donors needs urgent work as it adds phrases that don’t make any sense (1 Child with average working days of 232.)

We believe you can bring about a remarkable change in the lives of many school-going children. As you are a valuable part of our family, we invite you to continue participating in our endeavour. As in the past, all your future contributions too will certainly help our organisation to impact lives of children with…

These are just words. There’s no compelling reason to give, no emotion. What’s the remarkable change that my donation brought about, or can bring about? Can you show me, instead of telling me? And why many school-going children? Tell me about one such child.

And why ask me to “participate” and not to “donate” or “give”? Words like “valuable part of our family,” “our endeavor,” are fluff. They are words that are so commonly used in marketese – both NGO and corporate – that readers tune them out.

Here’s how I’d write this letter to a “lapsed” donor.

Dear Bharati,

We’ve missed you.

When you gave us Rs 500 in Feb 2017, you made sure that Raju got a fresh, hot, meal every day for six months that kept him focused in class, instead of being hungry. That’s why your donation counts.

Without the midday meals that donations from individuals like you provide, hunger stops children from paying attention, till they completely lose interest and drop out of school.

Now, as we ramp up to meet the needs of a new school year, I ask you to consider supporting us again. Your donation of Rs 950 before 31 March 2018 will ensure that a child like Raju will not go hungry at lunch for a whole year.

Click right here to donate [LINK TO DONATE]

Thank you,



So why is this version better?

  1. It has a compelling personal reason why my donation counts. (Keep a child like Raju fed and focused.)
  2. It creates a sense of urgency that’s legitimate. (The school year is about to begin.)
  3. It makes a concrete ask for Rs 950 with an offer that I can’t refuse (Rs 950 will feed a child for a whole year!)

Words matter. Use them well.

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