Writing a Support Letter I Want to Read

Raising money for a missions trip is one of the top reasons why people don’t go. But one of the many things I’ve learned over the past few years is that when a missionary goes, a community sends. It needs to be that way. God uses the process of raising support in the life of the goer (think of the lessons you learn on faith and humility and trust) and God uses the process of raising support in the lives of those around you. They get to hear what He is doing in your life and they get to invest in His work around the world – by investing in you.

So if I’m in your community (physically or virtually) and you want to send me a support letter, here are some things you should know:

1. Keep it to one page.

Don’t overwhelm me with a four-page document. If I see it’s that long, I’ll do one of two things: (1) put it aside in the hopes of reading later (you know, “When I have more time.”) or (2) skim the letter for key words. Keep your letter simple and if you have to spill onto a second page, make sure it’s because you have awesome pictures.

2. Make it readable.

No cheating. Don’t try to squeeze it onto one page by using font size 10. Don’t make my mom pull out her magnifying glass to read your words. Don’t make me zoom in on the screen (if you’re sending it to me as a PDF). What you have to say is worth being readable.

3. Choose your font wisely.

I have no scientific references to pull from, but Times New Roman is so late ’90s. Pick another simple font that makes you feel creative to write in and is readable. Do NOT use: Comic Sans, Engravers, or any of the Wingding fonts. I may get bored when I read in Times New Roman, but I don’t speak Wingding.

4. Tell a story.

Facts bore me. Stories engage me. Tell me why you’re going or of the people you’re going to work with. Tell me how God got you to where you are. Start your letter with this story and a sentence that grabs my attention. NEWSFLASH: “I’m so excited to go on this missions trip!” does not count. That’s why you’re writing me this letter. Let me get excited by your story. If you have to tell me that you’re excited, you’re trying too hard.

5. Highlight the highlights.

I still need to know the facts. When are you going? (Read: How much time do I have to get money to you?) Where are you going? How long will you be there? How much will it cost? How can I get money to you? What might you be doing? If I skim your newsletter because it’s too long or there are no pictures, I’m looking for this information. Help a sister out and put it in a text-box or bullet points. I love bullet points.

6. Use a picture.

I wanna see your face! I want a picture for two reasons: (1) It makes the page look less daunting to read because there’s something pretty (i.e. your face) and (2) I immediately want to know who’s writing. I want to have your face in my mind when I read – as if you’re in front of me talking. Be intentional about the photos you choose – if you’re going to teach English to adults in Thailand, don’t use a photo of your last missions trip when you held babies at an orphanage in Africa. Put yourself in the right context. You can also add a photo from the place you’re going to – let me have a little taste for what it’ll look like for you. You can get a picture like this from the mission agency or church you’re going with.

7. Ask boldly.

We all avoid it. We avoid it because we’re scared to ask. We do it because we want to convey that prayer is the most important thing a person can do to support us.  Yes, that is true – prayer is the most important thing a person can do. But you need money. You’re sending me a letter because you need money. If you only wanted me to pray, you would have shot me a Facebook message or a text saying, “Pray for me while I’m on my missions trip.” Be honest about what you want and ask boldly. Don’t water it down by saying, “Please pray for me and if the Spirit leads here’s where you can send money…” Tell me your need and invite me to join you by giving. Show me that this is a worthy investment of my money by believing in yourself and God’s work. Trust that the Spirit will lead some to give; He wants to bless them too.

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In Bangkok with SEND, April 2011.

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3 thoughts on “Writing a Support Letter I Want to Read

  1. Thanks Christine! This is exactly the kind of information I’ll be needing soon. Debi and I will be going to COP in January and, Lord willing, I’ll be referencing your tips again during and after that. Whew! Just thinking about it makes me nervous and excited all at once!

    Thanks again!

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