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Writing a Winning Support Letter

Mike Kim
Copyright 2014-2015 by Mike Kim and Mike Kim Enterprises LLC. All rights reserved. No portion
of this publication may be reproduced except for brief quotations in published reviews without the
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Table of Contents

The Importance of Support Letters

When it comes to missions fundraising, there is no more
important document than your support letter.
Why? The reason is simple.
Your support letter is directly related to how much money is raised for your ministry. It is essentially
the sales letter of the fundraising world.
There are a lot of opinions on support letters. If you look online, most of the advice centers on large,
non-profit organizations. These letters tend to be dry and corporate because these organizations
have an image to uphold (and they have the money to hire marketing firms).

Individual missionaries or missionary families are not going to hire a professional copywriter to pen
their letters. Its just not cost-effective.
The problem is these folks arent writing compelling letters. Its not their fault; theyve never been
trained to do so.
This resource is an attempt to bridge the gap. You may not have a website. You may not even have an
email list. But you will and always will write support letters.
Simply put, a well-written support letter is the most affordable way for you to raise money. You dont
have to travel anywhere, launch a website, or print a full-color newsletter. (I cant wait to share a
few case studies with you later.)

What Makes Support Letters Compelling

So, what makes a support letter truly persuasive, engaging, and
If you asked your donors this question, most of them wouldnt be able to give you a clear answer.
The decision to donate to your work involves a convergence of a number of factors the donors
familiarity with you, their level of trust in you, their current financial situation, and their belief (or
lack thereof) in the kind of work you are doing.
But from a marketing standpoint which is the standpoint that I am writing to you from the reasons
people give are quite clear (even if they cant articulate them).
From my experience as a professional copywriter (copy is the text written for ads and marketing
materials), a great support letter contains the same elements as a great sales letter:


Unique Selling Proposition

A support letter that contains these elements will accomplish two things:
1. It will help your donors understand that you are worth investing in because of your clarity,
confidence, and vision.
2. It will reduce the resistance your donor will have to contributing to your cause by gently
guiding them to a desired outcome (to help you).

Heres what the 5 elements look like in your support letter:

1. Promise: explaining what youll do with donations
2. Picture: making your mission vividly clear
3. Proof: giving your donors the gift of going second, showing that others have already
donated to you, or vouch for your credibility and competence
4. Unique Selling Proposition: explaining why you are uniquely qualified for your mission or
5. Offer: extending an invitation to your donor to give (in marketing, we refer to this as the

Though all good support letters contain these elements, each bears its
own distinct flavor.
To infuse your support letter with your own distinct flavor, weave in some extra information specific
to you. Also, make sure to incorporate these additional factors:
1. Answer WIIFM, which stands for Whats in it for me? (This is the question your donor is
asking as they read your letter. Is this worth reading? Whats in this for me?)
2. Answer the uncomfortable, unspoken questions a donor may have.
3. Make your subheads progress logically, so that if one were to read only the subheads, the gist
of your letter would still be communicated.
4. Invite the donor to give before the bottom of the first page.
5. Use specific details such as cities, dates, numbers, and names. This will help your donor
create a mental picture of what you do, and where you serve.
6. Create tension and a sense of adventure and urgency. This will allow your donors to feel like
they are part of something big, daring, or bold.
7. Use interesting facts that make your donors feel as if theyve learned something from reading
your letter.

Is this all really necessary?

Yes! Your donor is busy, distracted, and will often be disinclined to give to you. The letter must
engage your donors interest.
This is the reason that larger non-profits hire professional copywriters and marketers to craft their
support letters. Beneath the surface information within a support letter are the subliminal applications
of emotion, psychology, and language.

These are the hidden elements that really make a letter stand out and persuade people to action. Ive
given you the professional insider secrets. So

With that in mind, lets get to work!

A Winning Support Letter Example

To illustrate these principles, lets walk you through an actual support letter I was hired to write. Be
sure to keep in mind that this is only a template for you to follow.
Its not an absolute formula to be followed blindly, but it will help you write better letters, faster.

If you want more training on how to use marketing principles to increase the effectiveness of your
fundraising, refer to my full training course, Marketing For Missionaries*

My client was a church plant in Cambridge, MA right near Harvard University and MIT. While this
area isnt exactly an unreached people group, its pretty close!
The goal was to raise $30,000 to fund a larger scale church launch event, and included a city-wide
advertising campaign, website and branding overhaul, and several community outreach events that
would help get the word out about this new church for their launch.

For the best results, I urge you to read this letter out loud three times
(yes, I mean it!) before you proceed through the rest of this guide.
If you take shortcuts now, you will self-sabotage the learning process and your fundraising
development in the long run.
My goal is not to simply give you a template for your next support letter. My goal is to equip you to
write better letters. Reading professional sales letters out loud (and actually copying them longhand)
is something I do to this day to keep my writing skills sharp.
Read the entire letter out loud, three times.
(If you really want to get good at this, copy the letter by hand 3 times as well.)
February 19, 2014

Dear Mike,
In over 14 years of ministry, my wife Gina and I have given our lives to minister to those that God has sent us to. For the past four years,
the Lord planted us near Boston, MA, specifically Cambridge. We have big news: on September 28, 2014: we are formally
launching Journey Church!

What have we been doing the past 3 years?

Though we held church services starting in September 2010 and did outreach, Gina and I approached ministry here as missionaries. We
focused on building relationships, adapted our training and past experience to minister in this unique community, and essentially learned a
new way of life.
The past four years have been vital in assimilating into Cambridge life. The right team had to be trained, church infrastructure and
systems had to be built, and resources needed to be gathered. Now after 3 years of diligent training, building, and savingwe are

Welcome home, Cambridge.

Cambridge, MA is like no other place on earth. Its an academic and political hotbedhome to some of the worlds top universities,
including Harvard University and MIT. To say Cambridge is influential is an understatement. Eight U.S. presidents have graduated from
Harvard alone. MIT boasts eighty-one Nobel-laureates! Only 2.1% of the people in the Greater Boston area attend an evangelical
church. One in three people in Cambridge are from another country.
We are going to launch Journey Church right in the heart of this influential and diverse community.
Thats why our team is calling this the Welcome Home campaign. We want to bring people home: to Christ, to eternity, and to Gods

We are uniquely called and qualified to reach this community.

Weve all heard the Northeast is the preachers graveyard. A biblical worldview wars against the intellectual ideologies that are
prevalent here. Yet weve determined to make Journey Church home to the people of Cambridge. Our goal is to have 150-180 new
people attend our launch. Then well continue with our weekly services in strength. We believe were uniquely qualified to reach this

We know Cambridge. Weve lived here, worked here, and raised our children here.
Our past college ministry experience has been vital in helping us understand student life and building relationships with people
from diverse backgrounds.

Our team is talented, diverse, and has caught the vision to reach this city.

Ive personally called on top church planters to advise and mentor us every step of the way.

We have the support of other local pastors. Our heart is to reach Cambridgetogether.

Would you give financially to launch Journey Church?

Gina and I have already made our faith promise to this campaign along with many from our church. So far, over $8000 has been
raised/committed! I have been working a day job to supplement the ministrys income. Would you join us in giving to the launch of
Journey Church?

Our goal is to raise $30,000 by May 29, 2014.

Our Financial Breakdown.

$8,000 will help Gina and I devote lead Journey Church full-time. We will spearhead the launch, build ministry
infrastructure, cultivate relationships with the Cambridge community, and be equipping any leaders until Journey Church is selfsustaining.
$8,000 marketing. This includes print materials, direct mailers, a website revamp, and securing bus and subway ad space.
Part of the challenge in an urban environment is being seen and heard above the noise. We want to meet people where theyre
at: online and on the subway.
$5,000 outreach. We love serving our Cambridge community, but it costs money. We will engage in 3-4 large-scale
community outreach initiatives between now and September to build stronger relationships and gain exposure.
$5,000 mobile church equipment. This includes tech gear (new speakers, drums, and other worship equipment) and service
equipment like staging, stuff for Journey Kids and signage.
$4,000 unforeseen expenses. This will go toward hospitality, unforeseen needs, last minute expenditures, and discipleship
needs after the launch.

Individual one-time donations.

This is an individual breakdown of what we need to reach our goal. Would you take one of these slots?

1 person at $5000

2 people at $2500

4 people at $1000

6 people at $500

8 people at $250

10 people at $100

If you prefer to give online or give towards specific needs, visit: www.jcboston.org/welcomehome.
Your gift will be handled with complete integrity through the 501C3 organization of Journey Church under the accountability of our
external ministry overseers, including Pastor Chris Wood from Zion Fellowship in Canandaigua, NY and Pastor Mike Rondeau from Full
Gospel Center in Southbridge, MA.

You are giving to a lasting work.

Our goal is not just a one-time event or a blip on the screen. Weve diligently prepared our team for the long-haul. Were here to make
disciples of Jesus Christ in Cambridge. Journey Church will be a life-giving, impact church with your help.
Help us launch a life-giving church in the heart of one of the most influential communities in the world. Help us launch
Journey Church. Help us bring the people of Cambridgehome.

Kent & Gina Murawski

Lead Pastors, Journey Church

Now that you've read the letter three times, let's take a look at all the elements within it:

Writing Your Support Letter

Now its your turn.

Now that youve seen how this template can work for you, lets walk step by step through the process
of gathering the right information.
1. Explain what you need to raise support for. Be as specific as possible. Refrain from blanket
statements like, We are on the frontlines of evangelism to bring glory to God and expand the
kingdom in Mozambique.
Remember the call to action used in the letter: the purpose of the letter was to raise money to
help launch Journey Church. Simple, direct, and clear.
2. Gather interesting facts (just use Google) about the locale you are serving in. When you
share details, be specific. To say We need $5,000 is much better than we need several
thousand dollars.
Dont say, We are going to the Philippines rather, say We will be stationed in Los Banos, a
strategic location several hours north of the capital of Manila which allows us to establish a
foothold into the more rural areas while staying tethered to the capital city to access goods and
3. Use the support letter template, and incorporate your information into it.
4. Proofread, format the letter, and send!

Remember how people will really read your letter:

While its nice to think that people will read every word, its simply not true. Think about your
tendencies when reading a newspaper article, blog post, or even email. Theres a good chance youre
like most people. You:
1. Scan the headline, or subject line of the email. If it is compelling, you:
2. Scan the subheadings. If they are compelling, you:
3. Scan the bullet points. If and only if (!) they are compelling, will you scroll back up and
read the actual copy.
Your subheadings and bullet points need to be compelling. Your letter must also be scan-able
meaning you should break up the copy into smaller, bit-sized pieces. (You can see that the paragraphs
in my letter were very short.)

Whenever possible, make the subheadings of your letter cohesive enough that the reader would

understand the gist of the message, even without reading the body copy.
Here is a list of the subheadings from this letter.
As you can see, they get the point across quickly:

What have we been doing the past 3 years?

Welcome home, Cambridge.
We are uniquely called and qualified to reach this community.
Would you give financially to launch Journey Church?
Our goal is to raise $30,000 by May 29, 2014.
Our financial breakdown.
Individual one-time donations.
You are giving to a lasting work.

Also, stay away from using the word I.

Refrain from excessive use of the word I in your support letter. This is a subconscious thing that
makes your letter sound self-centered.
Using I in a support letter is unavoidable, but try to avoid starting sentences with I. If youre
curious, the support letter above had only one sentence that started with an I.

So, how did the letter perform?

You might be glad to know: this letter helped Journey Church surpass their donation goal of $30,000.
Later on, I repurposed this letter to help another church plant raise over $50,000 for their launch.
Thats $80,000 for two new church plants.

$25,000 raised for ministry in a closed nation

One of my students from the Marketing For Missionaries fundraising course (whom Ill call Ahmad
for privacy sake) used this very same letter as a template to raise money for his ministry.
He was facing significant challenges: he ministers in a closed nation and cant publicize his ministry
online. He didnt have an existing donor base, either. Ahmad took this letter, filled in his ministrys
information, and physically mailed it to 40 different pastors.
The results were astounding.
Out of the 40 letters, Ahmad received five invitations to speak at churches and missions conferences,
where he could openly share about his work and appeal for donations.

One church was so moved by his story that they put him on regular monthly financial support, gave
him a $10,000 one-time gift, and took a free-will offering from the congregation that totaled over
$9,000. Thats about $20,000 from just one church!
Ahmad reported another church he contacted donated $5,000. From these responses alone, he raised
roughly $25,000 and it all started with a carefully crafted support letter.
I cant guarantee these kinds of results for you. What I can guarantee is that a high-quality support
letter can position you for these kinds of breakthroughs.
This takes work. Ahmad still had to write the letter, target a number of churches, and mail them. Once
he got the invitations, he had to travel to these churches and communicate his vision in a compelling
way. He obviously did a great job, but his support letter is what opened the door for him.
Your letter may very well work this way for you, too.
Expert fundraiser Harvey McKinnon once said,

Donor loyalty is not about the donor being loyal to you, it is you being
loyal to the donor.
A compelling, informative support letter serves your potential donors. It engages them with the impact
and outcomes of their investments of time, wisdom, expertise, connections, and money.
I encourage you to utilize pride, not apology, when asking for support. I dont mean pride in the
puffed up sense of the word. By pride I mean dignity.
Friend, what you are doing is important. It is meaningful. It is necessary. It is worthy.
People will give to you because you meet others needs not because you have needs. Show your
donors how youre changing lives. Add value to your donors, and let them experience the joy of
participating in a great work.
Your fundraising is really a gentle lesson to others in teaching the joy of giving.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Mike, isnt this letter too long?

Short answer no. When it comes to letters of a transactional nature, length implies strength. Lets
say there is someone that is ready to give to you. They wont need to read the entire letter because
their mind is already made up.
Your letter needs to persuade the person that is on the fence. Well-organized, compelling information
combined with expressive language will help that person engage with your work.
Having a lot to say implies that you know what you are doing. Marketing studies have conclusively
shown (despite what people say) that when it comes to sales or transactional letters, longer is better.
How long? Long enough to cover the subject, and short enough to keep the reader interested.

2. What about pictures? Everyone tells me to use pictures.

They say pictures speak a thousand words. The problem is those words dont always persuade the
way you want them to. Use a picture of a desolate slum, and your letter immediately becomes an
emotional downer. Use a picture of yourself posing with village kids against the backdrop of a
beautiful blue sky, and people think youre on vacation. (Crazy, but true.)
Pictures do appeal to human emotion, and yes people make financial decisions based on emotion.
The problem you have as a fundraiser is that a donor does not receive an immediate psychological
payoff (they do not receive a product or service that benefits them), so you cant follow the exact
same formula.
My recommendation: use photos on smaller pieces that are paper-clipped to your support letter,
like a 4x6 prayer card that the donor can place on their refrigerator. That way they feel a connection
with you, but the support letter is free to grab their undivided attention.
Remember, your singular goal is to get your potential donors to read your support letter!

3. Should I tell a story instead?

That depends on: 1. whether you have a good story to tell, 2. whether you can tell it well, and three,
whether youll have enough room to lay out the details about your financial needs within your support
Stories are a powerful tool in conveying the effectiveness of your ministry. They can certainly appeal
to your donors emotions if they are told well.
If this is a challenge for you, save the stories for your other correspondence, like blog posts,
newsletter updates, emails, or even the prayer card I mentioned in the previous question.
Since those wont be transactional types of correspondence, your donor will be able to fully engage
with the emotional appeal of a great testimony.
(After all, your correspondence with donors isnt only limited to occasions when you need money
right? If so, you might consider keeping in touch more regularly and without requests for donations.
Be relational, not transactional.)

4. Should I start a blog to showcase my missions work?

In short, yes. For more reasons why, visit my blog post 5 Smart Ways Missionaries Can Raise More
Financial Support.

5. Where can I get more help?

Feel free to reach out to me via social media channels or my blog at mikekim.com. The best resource
is my full-length fundraising course called Marketing For Missionaries.
To date, over 40 missionaries have taken the course and like Ahmad who was mentioned earlier
have seen tremendous results. For full details, visit marketingformissionaries.com.

Getting Your Letter Read

Youve done the hard work and are ready to mail your letter.
If you want to make sure it gets opened, try this simple hack:
Make your package oddly shaped.
If youre on a shoestring budget, buy some individually wrapped hard candy like Jolly Ranchers
and stuff em in your envelope! If you have a straight legal letter envelope, it works even better
because the package wont be flat.
This works because people rarely, if ever, ignore oddly-shaped mail.
Like email, snail mail also competes for the recipients attention. Youve got to find a way to make
your piece stand out. Personally, I let snail mail accumulate for days and then go through the purge.
But I never ignore oddly shaped mail. Neither will your recipients.
Ive used this for both the company where I work as chief marketing officer as well as in personal
and nonprofit fundraising. If you have a worship or teaching CD, stick it in a non-jewel case inside
the recipient will feel the weight of something shifting around. Plus they get a free gift!
Remember, youve got to grab the recipients attention so they open your package. Since snail mail
doesnt come announced with an eye-catching headline, its got to come in an eye-catching or at
least attention-grabbing way.
Now go get some Jolly Ranchers!

Preparing a well-crafted support letter like the one outlined here will require a considerable
investment of time and thought on your part. However, you get free templates here: mikekim.com/winning
(you are free to copy and paste it into your word processing program). This will save you hours of
writing a letter from scratch.
Further, this kind of investment will pay dividends later when you are given opportunities to share the
vision of your ministry, either in churches, conferences, or one-on-one settings. It will go a long way
toward actually increasing your financial support.

About the Author

Mike Kim is a business strategist, marketing consultant, copywriter and blogger, and has been
featured on Entrepreneur.com, The Huffington Post, and the Church Marketing Podcast. He has been
involved in marketing at a C-suite level as chief marketing officer of a multi-million dollar brand
based in the competitive NYC media market, and is quickly become a rising voice in new media. He
has also served in a variety of ministry roles as a speaker, worship pastor, songwriter, producer, and
event promoter.
Mikes love for missions is rooted in his ministry journeys, which have taken him all over the United
States and abroad, including numerous countries within South and Central America, as well as Spain,
Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, and of course South Korea.
Mike and his wife Iris live in the suburbs of New Jersey, just outside the Big Apple.

You can connect with Mike here:
Blog: mikekim.com
Twitter: twitter.com/mikekimtv
Facebook: facebook.com/mikekimtv
Speaking: mikekim.com/speaking
Email: mike@mikekim.com