How to Write a Missions Fund-Raising Letter that Gets Results
The First Step
So, you just decided that you are going to take a leap of faith and sign up for a missions trip. Maybe The Holy Spirit spoke to your heart with a powerful whisper? Maybe God spelled a nation out for you across the sky? Maybe you are thinking, “Hey, didn’t Jesus say something like ‘Go everywhere and tell people about me,’ and that's reason enough to pack a suitcase?”
"Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." (Psalm 96:3, NIV)
Reasons may vary, but whatever the reason, you have decided to go. Congratulations on taking the first step!
Write a Support Letter to Fund-Raise
Now you are probably scratching your head trying to figure out how this trip will be paid for (unless you are independently wealthy, and if that is the case, you can send a percentage of your discretionary funds to me for my travel account). "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." (1Thessalonians 5:24, NIV). The God who called you is also going to provide as you step out into this call.
When you are fundraising for a trip, support letters are the best place to start. They are an excellent way to communicate your mission details and share why you are going so people can easily get on board with you and what you are doing by contributing financial, emotional, and spiritual support. Completing your support letter will require three phases: recognizing your audience, composing your letter, and sending your letter.
Where to Begin: Who is Your Audience?
Before you write your mission support letter, you should determine who is your audience. Start by compiling a list with both an email and a physical mailing address for each contact. On the field, it is important to have an email list to send updates and prayer requests to supporters, but they will also enjoy connecting with you through a physical letter to hang on their fridge, tuck in their Bible, or pass along to a friend.
Once you have an idea of who you will send your letters to, you should consider what information will appeal to them. Are these people who are part of your weekly bible study or people who live states away that you haven’t seen for years? Your potential supporters will probably represent a mix of different types of relationships, so it is important to think about who will be reading your support letters and what each group might be looking for in communication from you. I always leave room at the bottom or back side of the physical letter to hand-write a note, especially to people I haven’t seen or talked with in a while. Personal touches are always appreciated, particularly in this age of digital everything.
Five Steps to Writing the Letter
After you decide who your audience is, then you will actually write your missions support letter. The total length of the letter should be one to one-and-a-half printed pages, with room at the bottom for a short personal handwritten note (think, “Hey Aunt June and Uncle Jim, hope you both are doing well. I loved getting to see you at the family reunion last year! Love, Jo”). This length might seem impossibly short or incredibly long. Keep in mind, you have to include enough details in your letter to inform and engage readers, but you also don’t want to bore them. It’s actually pretty easy! There should be five basic written parts to the letter:
1. Opening- Begin the letter with a simple, fun greeting such as, “Hey friends and family! Guess what? I am heading to Timbuktu and I need your help.”
2. Why- Express why you are going on this mission. What brought you to the decision to travel and share your life and faith with people from a different culture who you have never met?
3. Details- Explain where you are going. What will you be doing there? How long will you be on this mission? Which organization are you going with?
4.How- This is the most essential part of your missions support letter! Specify how your friends and family can support your trip financially, spiritually, and emotionally.
To raise financial support, include clear instructions for how supporters can get funds to you or the account you have with your organization. If these directions are left out, your letters will solicit little financial help. The organization you are going with should provide you with information about how financial supporters can give towards your mission. Details should include information such as: a physical address to mail checks to, who to make the checks out to, and how to make sure the check gets to your account, and/or a website address and instructions for how to give online. (Also, look into crowd-sourcing sites such as GoFundMe.)
More than helping you to amass the monetary sum needed for your plane ticket and other expenses, your support letters get people behind you with critical prayer and emotional support. Having taken quite a few trips, living overseas for months, I know I could NOT have made it without prayer sponsors. Money comes and money goes, but people praying are priceless. Be sure to include suggestions for how your supporters can help you not just financially, but spiritually and emotionally as well, by including prayer requests and how supporters can stay in touch with you while you are on the mission field.
5. Closing- Keep your closing short, with four to five sentences total. Reiterate the “why” of your mission, and then express the result you hope to see, in yourself and the in people you are going to be reaching out to. Lastly, remind readers that you need and want them to join you in this endeavor, either financially or with prayer.
Make it Visually Appealing
As you are composing your letter, include photos of yourself, and if possible, graphics of where you will be going: a map of the country, pictures found online, or photos from the organization you are going with (only use graphics you have permission to use). Graphics bring a visual element to the words of your letter, and help readers connect more deeply with what you are writing. You don’t have to be a master graphic designer to create a visually engaging letter, but if you are technologically challenged, you can always recruit a friend to help with the layout. Just ensure that the written content comes from you.
Get Those Letters Out!
After your support letter is written, you will send copies of them out by physical mail or by email. If you are going the physical letter route, you will have to print your letters, stuff them in envelopes, pay for a bunch of postage to stamp them, and use that list of mailing addresses you compiled to get them out. If you are expecting lots of people to mail checks, then it is really nice to send small pre-addressed envelopes with your letter to make mailing a check to you or your organization easier.
If you are doing things digitally through email, then you should convert your letter to a PDF. All word-processing programs should be able to do this. If you are not sure, then search your program’s help center for info. Once you have a PDF, then you can attach it to an email and send it. Be careful about addressing this email to many people at once. Spam filters often catch emails with attachments that are sent to large amounts of people. Try groups of 5-10 email address at a time. Also, be sure to list recipients’ email addresses in the “bcc” or blind copy field to protect the privacy of your recipients.
If you are primarily sending letters and updates by email, you should look into getting an account with an organization like MailChimp.com. Their free service is all you will need to start with and it is a super easy site to use. It helps you organize your communication and send out great-looking emails that won’t get caught in spam filters. You can even track how many people actually read your emails and clicked on links you include in your emails, such as links directly to a way to give online. I have loved using this service. (I am not getting paid to say any of this, but if anyone knows how to get sponsored by MailChimp please let me know.)
Travels in India
"...that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth"
There you have it! To write a missions support letter, simply consider your audience, write your five-part visually pleasing letter, and send it out via snail mail or digitally by email. I hope all this info helps you to craft a letter that expresses what God is doing in your heart, God’s heart for the nations, and how everyone in your network can effectively get involved. Blessings and happy travels.
"But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Exodus 9:16