A sample annual appeal letter, if nonprofits were brutally honest with donors


[ Hi everyone, this is the last post of this calendar year. NAF will take a short break and will return with a feisty article on January 6th, 2020. Happy holidays! ]

[Image description: A blank white sheet of paper on some untreated wood planks, with various round gold ornaments and green pine branches surrounding it. The top right corner of the paper is covered with a smiling cartoony angel ornament, while the bottom left corner has a gold bow and a red bow, the kind one puts on presents. Pixabay.com]

Dear John,

As the year winds down, I know you are getting inundated with appeal letters from dozens of nonprofits. This letter is one of them. Just like other missions, we are writing to ask you to give money so we can keep vital programs and services running. And don’t worry, despite all those memes floating around about nonprofits spending 94 cents of every dollar on luxury cars and unicorn steaks or whatever, the money you donate is being put to good use. By being spent on staff, who do all of the work, along with critical things like office rent, utilities, etc. Your support makes it all possible.

Let me insert a story designed to affect you emotionally. Our program director Katie had terrible dental pains caused by her wisdom teeth, but we could not afford to give staff health insurance AND dental insurance. For months, she just carried on, but it really affected the program. The kids we serve could not understand what she was saying due to all the agonized mumbling. It made consoling them when ICE raided their parents’ workplaces a little more challenging. But thanks to donors like you last year, we were able to upgrade our healthcare from Copper to Copper Plus, which includes dental! Katie was finally able to get her wisdom teeth removed (with a $12,000 deductible that she can pay off gradually with interest)! The afterschool program is stronger than ever!

However, it might close next quarter. Despite showing tremendous impact in increasing kids’ academic success, graduation rate, and general happiness, the program is in its third year, which means it’s no longer shiny and new. One of our major funders stopped funding us to shift resources to a more “innovative” organization that teaches low-income children how to mine for cryptocurrency. Don’t worry, though, our communications team, which consists of our board treasurer’s graphics-design-major niece, is already working on rebranding the program. It’ll be the exact same high-quality program, but with a new name and logo, so hopefully we’ll get that funder back next year. (Don’t be concerned, all nonprofits do this!)

So you see, your gift really does make a difference, in ways you may not even imagine. Thank you for continuing to support our work, and the work of so many great organizations out there. If you would like to make an even bigger difference, we have some ideas! For instance, you can donate to nonprofits what you should have paid in your fair share of taxes! Last year, according to our research, you gave a total of $5,000 to various nonprofits, which is awesome! But really, you should have paid $17,000 more in taxes, since you are paying a lower tax rate than most of the low-income families we serve.

Help us to fix the tax code, because it would be better if everyone, especially generous donors like you, paid their fair share of taxes and government can take care of basic needs and some of us nonprofits could close our operations. We all have great ideas of what we would do instead; Katie, for example, would love to open a “magic” cupcake store! Until tax laws are changed, it would be great if you give at least $17,000 total to nonprofits so we can continue to try to fill in the gaps that the government and the rest of society leave behind.

Also, you know how people do those DNA tests to see what their heritage is? Well, it would be amazing if you did a similar analysis of where your family’s wealth came from! For instance, it could be 20% from displacing Native peoples from their land, 20% from a legacy of slavery, 30% perpetuating the opioid epidemic, 15% tax evasion, etc., and maybe now is the right time to do some reparation! I know it can be challenging to face the past, but it can also be fun and extremely freeing and will make such a big difference!

OK, let’s face it, you’re probably not going to do those things. So please donate to our nonprofit. We do awesome stuff. Wait, I mean YOU make it possible for us to do awesome stuff. You can keep vital services affecting thousands of people running. No pressure or anything, but the development team will be checking the mailbox every day, hoping and praying and counting, because these next few days may determine whether we’ll be able to keep our programs running in the Spring and whether Josh, our social work practicum student who is counseling our kids, gets a chair to replace the milk crates he’s been using.

Enclosed is a remittance envelope to speed things along (and a sticker, because we were told stickers are effective swag). We also accept gifts of stocks, but that’s really complicated to convert, so we’d really prefer just straight-up cash.

Thank you again. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season.


Jane Smith,

Development Director/Operations Manager/HR Manager

Be a monthly patron of NAF and keep posts like this coming.

Write an anonymous review of a foundation on GrantAdvisor.org