One of the best donation requests I’ve ever received

I don’t know if this is how she was supposed to do it, if it was planned this way, or if she just decided to send a quick and casual email to about 60 people asking for help. But I’m telling you, it made me click on the “donate” link and send them $20. And I’m broke.

Here’s what I got:

As a supporter of the The Cipher program in the past, thank you!!! I’m emailing to encourage you to help provide the teens in the program a good, hot evening meal. They meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays through May and the meal gets their meetings off to a good, energetic start. My job is to help Shannon by coordinating the donation and delivery of meals on those days.

We have MANY dates open in April and May and I would encourage you to either provide the food for an evening or make a donation to The Cipher so that we can continue to provide them with a hot, nutrious meal. For several of the kids, these are about the only good, healthy meals they’ll get all week.

To make a donation, go here:

To provide & deliver food for a specific date…I have the following dates open. Please choose one and I’ll contact you with details.
APRIL 7, 9, 14, 16, 21, 23, 30
MAY 5, 7, 12. 14. 19, 21, 26, 28

Thank you in advance for considering this!

What is it about this email that made me click through?

First, it comes off as very personal – opens with a thanks, multiple exclamation points… (usually, I’m not a fan of the multiple exclamation points but they just work in this context, I think.)

Second, in the email she’s asking for something specific. “We need meals.” Not only that, she adds that sometimes it’s the only nutritious meal these kids get during the week. Wow.

Third, it’s short. Man, I can’t tell you how long those donation requests emails and letters can get. I’m a writer, folks, and I’m telling you: People don’t read. They read the New Yorker, they don’t read your emails, I don’t care who you are. It’s all scanning. Don’t take it personally; I don’t –  you’re not even reading this right now!!!!

Sure, it’s missing details. I’d like to know how many kids I might be feeding or where I might be delivering the meals and at what time. But after this email, that all seems like trivial information. This woman has asked me to help get these kids fed. I immediately think, “I’m a mom, that’s what I do. What do you need?”

It helps that I’ve seen The Cipher in action and that we’ve interviewed its founder in the magazine. But even if this weren’t the case, I’d probably donate or at least forward the email to friends. I know not every nonprofit can make requests on this small scale, not for the amount of donations they need to fulfill their missions. But making this donation was just too easy, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.


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