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The Genre

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The Genre of Donation Request Letters

The business letter format is the basic underpinning of the donation request letter. Traditionally, letters should be one or two pages – your audience may be busy and preoccupied with other things, so presenting the information as efficiently as possible is to your benefit. But that does not mean that this is all that you can include in your donation request. Consider other materials that might be useful for the recipient, such as brochures, newsletters, or photographs. If your audience is unfamiliar with you or the group you are promoting, providing more information to help them make an informed decision is a good move.

Each feature of the traditional business letter must be reassessed according to the purpose of requesting a donation for your event, company, or organization. In addition, the donation request letter has some features of its own:

Inside Address

Traditionally, every business letter includes the inside address, or the name and address of the recipient, but knowing to whom to address your donation request letter may be difficult. Often, it is the PR department that will be handling donation requests for organizations or companies, but smaller businesses may not have this department, and individuals certainly won’t. Other times, the decision whether to donate or not is left to an executive within the company.

This may require some research, but knowing who should receive your letter is integral to making the connection that will, hopefully, lead to a donation. Find out who your recipient will be, and then include their name, title, and company or organization (if applicable) in your recipient’s address.


Research your audience to find out who your recipient is and address your greeting to them, using their name whenever possible (e.g. Dear John Doe) instead of generalizations (e.g. Dear Friend). Depending on your audience, you may choose to address your recipient on a first-name basis (e.g. “Dear John”) instead of using their full name and title. If the recipient has a history with your organization or company, or if you have worked with him or her personally before, a more personal greeting might be appropriate.


There are many different ways to begin the body of a letter. The way you choose to open your letter will come down to who your audience is and what you know about them. However you choose to open your letter, make sure your opening appeals to the values of your audience. Your introduction should do the following:

  • Introduce your cause/event, company, or organization

Introducing your organization or company should happen early on in the letter. However, be wary of overwhelming your reader with too much information about your organization, event, or company. Keep the information pertinent to the topic of the letter and aimed at establishing a connection with your audience. It is not the sender who should be the focus of the letter, but the opportunity for the recipient to become involved.

When introducing an event, make sure to include information regarding time and date. Helpful information to include in any letter is where you or your organization or company operates and brief mentions of your past success in similar or related endeavors.

  • Establish a connection with the audience

It is very important that you establish a connection with your audience, whether it be an individual, an organization, or a company. You may do this by appealing to their goals or values that you uncovered when researching your audience. For instance, referring to how your particular event will help raise awareness of local businesses when writing to a local business connects your event (and their forthcoming donation) to an important goal of that particular audience.

  • Engage your audience

You want to engage your audience in a way that will hold their attention and motivate them to continue reading your request (and hopefully meet it!). Depending on what you know about the values of your audience, this may be in the form of an anecdote, a statement of public success, a thought-provoking question, or a relevant and interesting fact.

  • Thank your reader

Thanking your audience in the beginning of the letter creates a confident tone and connects you to your reader by assuming a supportive relationship.

Often, many of these moves can be accomplished simultaneously. For instance, referencing the organization’s past engagement with a particular community when writing to a local, privately-owned business for the purpose of fundraising for another local event will help to both introduce the organization and to establish a connection with the audience, who is presumably invested in the surrounding community.


Depending on the ethos, or the public values, of the business, organization, or event you are writing on behalf of, your closing will be more or less formal in style. For example, you might use a more informal “take care” if your business values a familial relationship with its clients, or the more formal “regards” if professionalism is more highly valued. However, a more personal closing will help you connect to your audience. Traditional closings such as “sincerely" or “thank you” are appropriate for a professional letter, but there may be a closing that is used by your organization or company, for instance, that you want to incorporate.

In your closing, you will want to include the sender’s name, full title, organization/company, and contact information. The recipient should know exactly who to talk to and how to reach them given this information. Make sure that the person you include as the sender is the one who will actually be talking to the recipient, if the occasion arises. Always include a personal signature above the sender's name, hand-signed if possible. This makes your request more personal.

Thank your reader again for their support. This displays confidence and establishes a connection with your audience that suggests that you both are allied in your cause.