Making the Mission Letter Authentic

The summer-mission solicitation letter. Yikes! Did you feel that “Christmas-letter” twinge of dread, knowing that the final product usually resembles a jumbly missive or boring form letter?

Sadly, the mission letter is often a first cousin to the rambling holiday dispatch—but it doesn’t have to be. Use the following samples to help your kids create an authentic mission solicitation letter.

The two letter examples that follow are structurally alike, but each are personalized so as not to sound like a completed template copied over and over again. It takes a bit more time on the front end, but after reading these samples, your students will understand how much more effective their own letters can be when they know their audience.

The first letter is an example of what a student might send to people he or she doesn’t really know very well, like parents’ coworkers. The tone is decidedly different than the second example’s, which is intended for those individuals whom the student knows personally, and therefore shows more familiarity.

Example #1 (don’t know well)

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones,1

As you may know, it’s the time of year when students everywhere begin to raise money for summer mission trips. Since it’s unusual for you to hear from me, you guessed it: that’s why I’m writing to you.2

Some of us from our First United Methodist Youth Group have the opportunity to take part in a mission trip to Haiti. We’re going to help hold Vacation Bible School for some children there, plus we’ll pitch in to help on various construction sites. Our trip is planned for July 10-15.3

In order to go on this mission, I need to raise $700. I helped my parents hold a garage sale where I made $200 and I think I can save another $50 on my own if I’m careful with my spending. I’m looking for 15 sponsors who are willing to donate $30 each to make up the $450 difference and I’m hoping you’ll be one of them. If so, please use the self-addressed-stamped envelope enclosed and make the check out to First United Methodist Church.4

Of course whether or not you choose to make a donation toward my trip, please keep our mission trip in your prayers. Thanks so much.5

God bless,
Bobby Smith
(555)555-5555
bobbysmith@xxxx.com6


1 If they take no other advice, try to convince students to personalize the salutation.

2 Since Bobby doesn’t know Mr. and Mrs. Jones and therefore, has never written a letter to them in his life, it will be obvious that he must want something. So why not acknowledge that fact up front? Chatty first paragraphs in most solicitation letters sound plain phony when the recipient barely knows the student. Suggest an upfront and honest approach in every day language instead.

3 Hit the basics here. Who, what, where, when, and why? Short and sweet.

4 Explain how much the total trip costs and then, before asking for a donation, advise the student to share what he/she is doing to raise money. Dividing the total amount into “sponsorships” lets the letter recipient know exactly how much the student hopes to receive from them and that it is typically a doable request.

5 Almost everyone will suggest asking for prayer support before asking for financial support. If requesting prayers is a student’s number one goal, God bless ’em. Let’s call this letter a Mission Prayer Request and leave out any mention of money. Seriously—it might be something worth considering, but assuming they’ve covered financial support in the previous paragraph, students will, of course, want to ask for prayer support as well. And it’s just good manners to say “thank you.”

6 Because Bobby doesn’t know Mr. and Mrs. Jones well, he included contact information in case they want to get in touch with him.


Example #2 (do know well)

Dear Aunt Betty and Uncle Jack7,

We had fun with you guys the other night at the barbeque. Aunt Betty, you make the best potato salad. Maybe you could give Mom your recipe!8

Did she or Dad tell you that I was going on a mission trip with a youth group at my church?

We’re going to Haiti to help hold Vacation Bible School for some children there, plus we’ll pitch in to help on various construction sites. Our trip is planned for July 10–15.9

In order to go on this mission, I need to raise $700. I helped Mom and Dad hold a garage sale where I made $200 and I think I can save another $50 on my own if I’m careful with my spending. I’m looking for 15 sponsors who are willing to donate $30 each to make up the $450 difference and I’m hoping you’ll be one of them. If so, please use the self-addressed-stamped envelope enclosed and make the check out to First United Methodist Church.10

Of course whether or not you choose to make a donation toward my trip, please keep our mission trip in your prayers. Mom and Dad would like that, too. Thanks so much.11

Love,

12


7 “Dear Friends and Family” to an aunt and uncle? Again, if nothing else, personalize the salutation.

8 You’ll find a hundred sample letters out there that consider something like this to be personalization: “I just finished up a busy year at school and I’m looking forward to summer plans.” If your students are robots, fine, but if this letter is going to aunts, uncles, Grandma, an old babysitter, a piano teacher, etc., encourage students to come up with something real here. It’s essentially a matter of showing respect.

9 Slight personalization here but mostly the same as in Example #1.

10 Mostly the same, but with personal details that will make the letter authentic.

11 Ditto

12 When writing to Aunt Betty and Uncle Jack, Bobby wisely decided not to type his name but to sign his name.