Anatomy of A Christian School Fundraising Letter

If you’ve ever had to conduct a school fundraiser, you know it isn’t easy to get people involved. As a matter of fact, it’s almost as easy as pulling teeth most of the time.

One of the main reasons why most parents, staff, and business people associated with your school will blow off an opportunity to contribute or participate, is because they don’t see a big enough reason.

If they do want to contribute and get involved, they may put it to the side to deal with it later and then they forget about it.

They will need someone to tell them why the fundraiser is important and urgent, and why they should call right now

This is why a well written fund raising letter can be the answer to your problems. 

Let’s Dissect this Fundraising Letter Together!

What I’ve decided to do is show you exactly, by the numbers, all of the elements of making a fund raising letter.

Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to get this done.  Just like advertising copy, there are elements that must be presented in a logical manner to get people to want to read what you have written and then take action.

The average person gets hit with hundreds, if not thousands of marketing messages a day, why would they pay attention to your letter?

Hopefully, this dissection will help you create a letter that’s more effective and will get prospective parents, business people and students to take the action that you want them to in this effort.

Before we get started, take a look at the entire letter, by clicking here: Christian School Fundraising Letter by the Numbers! 

The Letter by the Numbers

#1 The very first, and most important part of any advertisement is the headline.  Most advertising copy writers spend 80% of their time trying to write one for their copy.

The reason?

You have mere seconds to grab your reader’s attention and get them to continue reading or they will probably set the letter down and forget about your message.

So, your headline has got to grab your their attention immediately.

In order to do this, you need to do two things:

  • Present the biggest benefit
  • Generate curiosity

Let’s take a look at the very beginning of this letter.

Christian fund raising letter header

This letter was used to promote advertisement space in a school’s yearbook.  The school was having a hard time getting businesses to respond to the opportunity of getting their businesses into the yearbook.

When I wrote this piece, I sat down for a couple hours and really brainstormed the top benefits I could present to businesses and parents that wanted to advertise in the yearbook.

Since I had a severe time constraint, I had to spend less time than usual on this.  The headline is super important, so usually, when I write a piece for someone it takes a lot more time.

However, this letter had to be done quickly. (By the way, I normally won’t do work that requires this fast of a turnaround. Solid ad copy requires a lot more time and effort.)

In this headline (#1) I presented two benefits.

  1. Making a difference in the lives of the students at the school
  2. Getting businesses ads in a publication that won’t be thrown away

Important Note: Don’t get benefits and features confused!

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Features are niceties of a product like:  the color, size, shape, number of buttons, leather seats, clean look, etc.

Benefits are what the product or service will do for an individual like: make your teeth whiter, increase you intelligence, or get you to your destination safely.

The two benefits I presented in the headline are good reasons why a business person associated with the school would want to help out.

I could have said something to the effect of making it possible for parents to see what their kids were doing during the school year, but I wanted the reason to be more compelling.

Telling parents and business people they’re going to be making a difference, means a lot more.  Also, I didn’t want to address this just to parents but also businesses that usually had a relationship with the school and believed in the Christian mission it represented.

The statement “Get Your Business in a Publication that People Won’t Throw Away!” is another benefit to advertisers and it also generates curiosity.

Notice I didn’t tell them initially that this is about advertising in the yearbook.  I wanted them to read the rest of the letter, so I didn’t come right out and tell them what it was all about.

#2 In most advertisements, I wouldn’t put a formal statement of who this is from with contact information like this.  Because this is a letter from a school and teacher with a sterling reputation, I kept elements of a formal letter on the page.

#3 Call them out.  Whenever you’re writing a fundraising letter of this nature, you should know who your audience is.  So call them out. If you were talking to parents of the basketball team, you would use;

“Dear Basketball Team Parents,”

This lets them immediately know that you’re talking to them.  So, call them out and let them know that this message is for them.

#4 Break up the Spacing. Your school’s Grammar/English teacher will probably want strangle you.  Don’t worry about how a paragraph is formed, but how a person’s eyes will travel down a page.

Christian fund raising letter element

(This is especially true about writing for an Internet blog or webpage.  People’s eyes just can’t handle small print, big blocks of writing.)

So, break it down.

Vary the size of your paragraphs so that people reading your ads won’t get tired eyes and sore heads.

Christian fund raising letter header

#5 Give them benefits and reasons to help. Sit down and brainstorm every reason you can with students, parents and staff on the benefits of helping or contributing to the school’s cause.

Actually, this step should be done before you write a single word, because it will make your writing go so much easier.  I once evaluated a ten page advertisement that was written for the Internet.  Almost every sentence on that report had a benefit or two in it.

A good fund raising letter will give people plenty of reasons and benefits as to why they should help. So you need to brainstorm and write down every single benefit and reason why a person of interest would need to buy or contribute to your fund raiser.

#7 (#6 is explained below) Change up your font elements. Use bold, italics, underlined and a combination of the three to make important points stand out.  Just like paragraph spacing, you want to create a page that is easy to read and not boring.


If I have an important point to make, I use these font elements to make my point stand out.

(In the case above, I used bold, italics and underlined at the same time.  See how it stands out?)

However, never change the font in the body of the letter.  Once you’ve started writing the body, stick with a plain, easy to read font like Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana and stick with the same font throughout the body.

The only part of a sales letter, or fundraising letter that I’ll use a different font in, is the headline.

For the headline, I use large letters (if color is available, I’ll use red in the headline) using the Impact font.   As I stated earlier, you’ll want to make sure that your headline grabs the eyeballs of your reader immediately and using large letters in a noticeable, yet very plain font is important.

#6 Use bullet points to call notice to important points, benefits and features.  These are used to give the reader short and sweet points that will drive them tom take action.

I like to “dimensionalize” my bullet points if I can.  If I present a feature about a product I’ll try to add a benefit to it so that it will carry more weight in the mind of the reader.

Example: “The yearbook cover is professionally printed and looks great, so people that see your advertisement will know your business is in a serious, well made publication, rather than a cheap newspaper that gets thrown away.”

See how I took a feature like the professional cover, and turned it into a benefit to the reader that will make their business stand out?

Bullet points also make important points stand out from the rest of the text on the page.  Once again, this breaks up your body copy and makes it easy to read.

#8 Use a call to action (CTA).  Near the end of almost any advertising copy, you’ll find a CTA.  This is where you’ll actually tell the prospects exactly what they need to do to get involved.

If you want them to call you and place an order, then tell them to do so.  Many copywriters feel that next to the headline, the CTA is the second most important element of a sales letter.

If you watch any infomercials on TV, whether they are trying to sell you a Chia-Pet, or trying to get you to donate money to rescue whales, you’ll see a call to action. Some of these infomercials run their calls to action throughout the entire presentation.

Christian School Fund Raiser Call to Action

The example above shows a local car dealership that bought airtime on a Saturday morning slot.  There are at least three or four calls to action here.

Can you spot them all? (Please see the answer at the bottom of this post.)

Something I should have mentioned from the start…

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re starting to think that I’m telling you to use slick sales tactics to promote your Christian school’s fund raising activities.

You’re starting to think this is unethical.

I’ve worked at several private schools and every one of them used fund raisers to bring in MONEY. As a matter of fact, all of them had multiple fund raisers of every kind you can think of to bring in cash.

Yearbooks, bake sales, fall festivals, strawberry sales, cookbook sales, candy bars, etc.  There are so many types of these fund raisers operating on so many levels, I can’t actually name them all….and that’s at just one school!

Now, ask yourself this question ― is it unethical for your school to have these fundraisers?   Should they really have this many?  Should your school be using children to bring in funds for a school?

Christian School Fund Raiser Call to Action


Do you want your students to go on field trips?

Do they need uniforms for the baseball team?

Does your Senior Class want to go on a graduation trip?

Does your science class need more supplies?

Do you have any students involved with missionary work through your school?

I think you can see my point.

So, if your school is going to be using these types of activities, doesn’t it stand to reason that you’ll want to bring in as much cash as possible?

If I can show you a way to get the job done easier, while reminding people that are involved in your class or school what you are fund raising for, wouldn’t you do it?

Of course you would.

Not only that, but the fund raising companies you’re working with also want you to do well.  I hope you don’t think for a second that the Golden Wrapper Candy Bar Company wouldn’t LOVE to see you sell a ton of their chocolate, and make a lot of money for your school as well as themselves.

Of course they would.

Hey, wait a minute! Now you’re going to tell me I’m trying to sell you on using this technique!

Moving on… (Yeah, just can’t win!)

Getting Back to My CTA…

#8 Continued ― You don’t need to be overt about telling people to take action because there are ways you can do it subtly. Take a look at this excerpt from my sales letter:



The first section gives the supporters a reason to donate or purchase outside of the reasons I’ve already hit upon.  It actually introduces the CTA section while giving them another reason.

The next section creates urgency.  You know as well as I do, that if your hand isn’t open right in front of your supporters, they’ll put it off, no matter how badly they want to help your school.  So, with a fund raising letter you have to give them a reason to order today.

Always put a time limit in your letter.

If your strawberry fund raiser has a time limit on it because this is the perfect picking and delivering time, say it.

If you have to have the money in by a certain date because the senior class has to have the money to buy tickets, say so.

The last section is the overt CTA.  This where you’ll come right out and say what you want the supporters to do.  Always have a way they can easily order.

If you can have multiple ways they can order, so much the better.  For example, if you’re working with a company that provides you with a webpage for sales, the best situation would be something like this:

Christian fund raising letter CTA

The easier and more ways you can get people to order, the better off you’ll be.

#9 Closing ― Close out your letter professionally and always place contact and ordering information under your name.  If you can add your signature do so because it adds a personal touch.

About Postscript (PS) Sections

Usually, copywriters like to use a postscript section in their copy.  The reason is because you can remind people the benefits you just mentioned, but the main reason copywriters is to sweeten the deal somehow.

If you can come up with an extra benefit or treat to go along with your initial offer, put it in the postscript (PS) section.

Lists of Books that can Help Your Fundraising

If you want to learn more about how to write sales letters, fund raising letters or any other type of a persuasive message, I’ve put together a list of resources that you can draw on.

These resources deal with the art of copywriting however, you can adapt these to your fundraising communications as well.

The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy ― This book is a great introductory text that will give you all of the basics you need to craft a persuasive message of any kind.  Dan Kennedy is a master marketer that commands $25,000 for a sales letter from his clients.  You can get it used from Amazon for a lark.

How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters by Mal Warwick ― Here’s a book that deals directly with writing fund raiser letters and actually gives you examples to work with.  In the world of copywriting, “swiping” or the practice of using other people’s advertisements and letters as a template, is common practice. So there are quite a few examples you can swipe and quickly adapt to your fund raising efforts.

The Fundraiser’s Guide to Irresistible Communications by Jeff Brooks ― When other good copywriters recommend a book of this nature, you better believe it will get results.  Not only does Jeff Brooks give you great fund raising ideas, but he also shows you how to design them for a better response.  Once again, you can get this book from Amazon for free.

If You Don’t Want To Do This Task Yourself…

Well, I am an advertising copywriter myself, so if you need help with this task, please feel free to contact me.  I’ll be happy to talk to you and give you some free tips  on how you can make your next fund raiser more profitable.

To Your School’s Continued Success!

Mark “Elmo” Ellis

(859) 797-9560

Oh yeah, before I forget!

***Answer to the Call to Action (CTA) question above:

  1. The QR code (the square barcode known as the Quick Response code) itself is a subtle way to say, “Scan me” by just being there.
  2. If the QR code wasn’t enough, there’s a small bar below it telling you to use it.
  3. The obvious CTA is the “Call Now” in big letters over 1-800 number.
  4. Finally, the salesman is telling you “Call Today”, I can guarantee it. So that brings the total to 4 CTA’s on this screen capture.

The Christian School Guide to Database Marketing

Database Marketing for Christian Schools and Colleges

If you haven’t been maintaining and using a database to keep track of past and current students and their families, you may want to consider it.

Believe it or not, keeping a detailed database is an indispensable marketing tool that will put you light years ahead of any competition your school faces in the market place.

If you use a database properly, you can keep in touch with current families and past, while categorizing them in an order that is helps you keep track of their interests, geographic location, age, dates they attended your school, etc.

A good database can also help you keep track of any responses that you may have had concerning advertisements your school has run.

The main thing you have to keep in mind about using your database as a marketing tool, is that you are not simply looking at students and families as simply names and numbers, but as individuals that either attended your school or showed interest in it.

A Real World Example of Using Database Marketing

        Let’s take a step back and think about this method for a second.  Most private Christian schools and colleges have sports programs.  Each year, your school hosts a sports banquet which is a pretty big affair.

The banquet is a fund raising event that helps to bring in funds for supporting your school’s sports teams. Let’s assume, for this example, that you’ve been diligently creating and maintaining a database for several years now.

Since you’ve been keeping detailed records on families and your students, you know which students were involved in sports programs in the past and if their parents were involved coaching, performing fund raising activities, etc.

Rather than just contacting student’s families that are currently coming to your school, you could use the database to send an invitation to alumni that were on sports teams when they attended your school.

Many of those alumni are now very successful individuals that not only wouldn’t mind paying to come to your event, but also would like to donate or contribute something more to the school.

Can you see how powerful this tool can be when you use it properly?

Finding Good Software Is the Start

        If your school’s budget is very thin, you can start super cheap by using Microsoft Excel to create a database.  Or you can simply use Microsoft Word even if you just want to keep a listing of current and past students.

Outside of those two cheap methods, I would recommend purchasing software from any one of the many professional companies that specializes in selling school database management software

I would also advise that you ask any of the dealers of this type of software if they have a free trial of their product, so that you or your staff may be able to try it before you buy it.

It would probably be smart to try at least five to ten database packages before making a final decision to purchase one.  You’ll want to see which system fits your budget and you’ll also want to see which piece of software is easiest for administrative staff to learn and use.

So, make sure you pick the best software you can at the onset, so that you can easily use it to keep track and stay in place with your key players.

social media course

Building and Maintenance of Your Database is Critical

Once you have a program that works for your school, make sure you use it.  It’s very easy to get lazy and blow off putting in critical information that will help your school and reach out to people that are involved with it.

Here’s a few ideas of what types of data would will help your school:

  • The Basics – Of course you’ll have the street addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, (email is still a cheap and super effective way of marketing any business) years attended or attending, etc.
  • Activities – I’ve already touched on how this can help you, but think of all of the activities your school has and how you can easily keep track of students and former students that are involved in different activities. That way, if you have any events based on a particular activity, it’ll be a snap to contact people interested in that particular event at your school.
  • Grades, Awards and Honors – if you maintain this information and then let students and former students know you remember them, it has a massive impact! If a student was a valedictorian or a salutatorian, and they still get mail, email or other messages from your school letting them know that you remember their achievements, it will leave an impression on them that they’ll never forget.
  • Families and Extended Families – This is very important information for you to keep. If you’ve been working at a private school or college, you know that former students will refer your school to their relatives.  As a matter of fact, think about how many former students have attended your institution, and if they have any of their kids, nieces, nephews, or cousins going to your school.  It’s no accident that they have.  So, keeping in touch with these extended members is very important to your school’s overall database plan.

I’m sure you could think about other things that your school can do with information of this type, and it would probably be a good idea to sit down and brainstorm ideas with your staff on this subject at least once a year.

Christian School database Marketing

You’ve got to take the Long View

This is a good time to make a distinction between selling a product and selling a service.  McDonalds sells products, Walmart sells products, but a private Christian school is selling a service.

Services are harder to sell that most products, because education, even though it’s real and important, is an intangible product that you can’t hold in your hands. (Unless you consider your printed diploma or degree the product.)

Usually, the process of selling an education is a more complicated affair than selling a simple product.  However, once the education is sold and the student is now enrolled in your school, he or she is a part of your school family.   It is very easy to make them feel as though they are a part of something.

(I recently wrote a 45 page report on this subject, and how you can use social media to create raving fans that will evangelize your school and promote it for free.  You can get it by going to my site:

The big reason why your school should be using a database to market your school is because marketing for the long term is so much more important to a service that’s selling an intangible product.

Selling the services of any educational institution requires vigilant and consistent marketing that needs to be done day after day, month after month, year after year.

The kids you’re teaching today will either leave your school, or graduate from it, and the impression you leave on them will stay with them for the long term. How much bigger it will be if you stay in touch with them and let them know you remember them?

The Big Marketing Lesson You Must Never, Ever Forget: The easiest people to sell your services to are people that have already used your services!

If former students loved your school, and you’ve been using a database to keep track of these individuals and contact them, THEY WILL MORE THAN LIKELY SEND MORE BUSINESS YOUR WAY!

Another Real World Example of How You Can Use a Database

If you’re a college and have had graduates leave your school or graduate, you can easily keep track of former students and what their primary course work consisted of.

If your college developed a new graduate course on computer forensics, for example, then you could send an announcement out to everyone that took computer courses from your school.

You could then send an email announcement out that would talk extensively about the course and how it would benefit those former students.  Not only that, but these students would probably be pretty excited if you college was hosting a computer fair, seminar, or other event.

Using a Database Can Save You Big Marketing Dollars

        One of the great marketing benefits of using a database to market your Christian school, is that it can save you marketing dollars.  If you have parents and students that come to your school, or even call it, a smart practice would be to collect as much contact information from them.

Once you’ve placed those names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses into your database, you’ll have an exact list to send your marketing message to, rather than waste a lot of money arbitrarily marketing to a group of people that may not care about private schools.

Not only that, but you can contact these individuals over and over again in using various methods mentioned above, so that they will come to recognize and become familiar with your school and what it can do for them.

What Your Database Can Reveal About Your Prospects

Once you’ve got your database together, you can use it to see what demographics and similarities there are between the families and prospects you’ve collected.  You can easily see what correlations there in:

  • Similarities there are with families that have stayed with your school for a long time. This information will tell you what benefits you should focus on in your marketing materials.
  • Areas of interest are your parents and students are focused on the most. Is it technology? Sports programs? This will help you know how to address
  • What you should spend money on in improving your school. If there is a large interest in a drama department, you should make improvements there that are very beneficial to your school.
  • Errors and deficiencies your school may be making. If you keep track of why students have left your school in the past, it may reveal deficiencies that you didn’t know existed. If you have lost a large group of students over the last few years, keeping track of these reasons in student records would be a big help.
  • Survey information. If your school can give a survey once a year, you could also keep that in a database which would reveal a load of valuable information about your school.  This material could be used to help you identify the benefits you need to create effective ads and websites that address the needs of potential students and their families.

It’s All About the Relationship

You want to create relationships.  You aren’t trying to create ads and marketing pieces you’ll only use one time.  The average person sees about 30,000 to 40,000 ads a year, and will need to see your school’s name at least 5 or 6 times before it starts to register in their brains.

The best way to beat these odds is to create long term relationships with families that are in your target market. You should keep in mind as you use a database to market your school, is that it can help you create a long-term relationship with your students, families, and prospective students.

The more they hear from you, the more they’ll like, know, and relate to you. And the more they like, know and relate to you, the more they’ll respond to your marketing efforts.

As a matter of fact, they will become raving fans of what you have to offer and help you promote your school for free.

Here’s another great example of how to use your database creatively to keep and build relationships. You’ve built your database, and in it you have all of your student’s and former student’s birthdays and other important dates in it.

Wouldn’t it be great to send these students (even if they’ve graduated or moved on) a birthday card or an email wishing them the best on their birthday?  Who does that?  If you don’t think this sort of thing sticks in a person’s mind, guess again.  Techniques like this are very effective.

The cool thing is, big companies can’t use these types of tactics because they’d go broke. You have a much better opportunity to connect with your audience than big companies, and you need to do this if you want to create long term relationships.


Action Steps to Database Marketing

Hopefully, by now, you see a reason to invest a little time, money and effort in using a database to market your Christian school.

Here is a list of things you can do to get the ball rolling:

  1. Go online and search for school database software.   Make sure you look at more than just one or two packages before making a decision to buy.  Also, see if you can get a trial package to test the software first.
  2. Once you buy and install the software, get your key personnel up to speed on how to use it, and input all of the current data into the software.
  3. Make sure you keep track of what students were involved in, and what they accomplished at your school when they attended. Remember, students that graduate or have to leave your school can still be evangelists and raving fans of your school. They have friends, relatives, and eventually, kids of their own that may go to your school.
  4. Once you have a system in place, take a look at the demographics and make up of your students and former students and their families. See if you can spot correlations and similarities than you can use in your marketing.
  5. Conduct surveys and keep the results in a separate database. This will be vital to knowing what key benefits your school will need to present in all of your marketing materials.
  6. Use the information in your database as often as you can. Sit down and brainstorm all of the different ways you can use it and take action!

I’m sure that you can think of different ways you can use this software to market your school.  If you have any ideas you’d like to share with us, please feel free to do so in the comment section.

If your school is considering running ads, using email marketing, direct mail or any other form of marketing communication, and would like some solid advice, please feel free to contact me.

I’d love to discuss with you how to use the power of words to quickly grab the attention of your prospects and get them to read your marketing message seamlessly.

To Your School’s Continued Success!

Mark “Elmo” Ellis                                                                                                                                                                                         elmo033057(at symbol)                                                                                    (859) 797-9560