Institute for Charitable Giving

blue rule

Give Your Appeal a Compelling Opening

blue rule

You are about to read the first page of a superb appeal letter. It was one of a series of recent direct mail pieces from a medical center.

Read what follows. Tell me what you feel should be the lead paragraph. After you read it, I’ll tell you what I think.

Dear friend:

Children and their parents shouldn’t have to face the devastation of cancer and death. But they do.

Each year, hundreds of kids are diagnosed with leukemia and other forms of childhood cancer. While modern medicine often holds the disease in check, the specter of cancer hangs heavily over frightened children and concerned families.

But you can do something about it.

Courage Center, in cooperation with our medical center, has developed special programs for kids with cancer and their families. Families like the Daberkows from Lakefield . . .

Lance Daberkow was diagnosed with leukemia two days before Christmas. He was two years old.

“Lance was so sick that they flew us to the Twin Cities for immediate treatment,” his mother June said. “His platelets were so low that his teeth bled through the night.”

“When they told me that he had cancer, I didn’t believe them. It took until New Year’s Eve for me to accept it. I can remember that night because there were fireworks going off over the river and everyone was celebrating. I sat on Lance’s bed and cried all night long.”

Although Lance’s prognosis was good, treatment required Lance and his mother to spend three months away from home in the hospital. While in the hospital, Lance’s sister Kelli and . . .

It’s an excellent letter. My own feeling, however, is that it should begin with the fifth paragraph— “Lance Daberkow was . . . ” Then on to the sixth. And the seventh. Then I would circle back to the opening paragraphs.

The fifth, sixth, and seventh paragraphs are the most compelling. What you want is to capture the reader in an embrace from which there is no escape.

(I give you permission to disagree. But only if you e-mail me!)


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