How to Create a Great Support Letter
Mission trip support letters are easy to write if you know what to include. The following are some quick tips on what to put in, what to avoid and how to share your mission trip support letter.
But first, let’s make sure you know why you’re writing a support letter. When you write a support letter, you’re doing way more than just asking for money and prayer – you’re inviting someone to participate in your trip. While they won’t be hopping in the van with you, they will be filling the vital role of providing support in your mission trip experience. Keep this in mind as you write and send your support letters.
10 WRITING TIPS
1. Keep it short. One page is plenty. Two pages should be your maximum. Quality trumps quantity.
2. Make it look good. First impressions matter. If designing documents isn’t your cup of tea, find a friend who can help. Including a picture of you or your team is an easy win.
3. Proofread it. Errers are fairly noticeabl… and often avoidable. Have someone help you by reading your letter for any errors before you hit PRINT.
4. Be interesting. Share about what you are doing, the place you are going and the people you will be with, but don’t drag out your letter with tons of minute details. (YouthWorks provides a Community Info Sheet for each of our communities; you might include some of those details about the community you’re headed to in your support letter.)
5. Make it personal. People want to support you! Don’t send a generic letter from the team when you can send a personal letter from you. While you might share some details about your team, also include what your hopes, fears and needs are.
6. Don’t forget the details. Where is the trip? What are the dates? What will you be doing? Is there a send-off service beforehand? How much money are you trying to raise? If they want to donate money, where do they send it and who are checks made out to? A great way to ask for money is to suggest a couple options for dollar amounts (e.g. “I recommend a gift of $50, $100 or $150, but of course, any amount is more than welcome.”)
You should also include whether or not donations are tax deductible. Ask your church if gifts qualify. Also, many qualifying organizations recommend that checks have nothing written on the Memo line as it can jeopardize the gift’s tax deductible status. If the gift qualifies as tax deductible you might write something like this: “Gifts are tax deductible. You can make checks out to ABC Church, but please do not write anything on the Memo line as this could jeopardize your gift’s tax deductible status.”
7. Don’t just write a “fundraising letter.” Support is so much more than people’s money. At the same time, there is nothing to be ashamed about when offering people the opportunity to be generous. If asking for money is part of the support you need, make it secondary to asking for prayer. Even if people can’t contribute financially, they can certainly still support you.
8. Ask for prayer. And be specific when you do. Give them 4 or 5 things they can pray for, for example: the community and ministries you are visiting, your team, your travels, etc. (If you wrote a team covenant, there is probably some great things to pray for in there!)
9. Be humble and respectful. Don’t make the place you’re headed seem destitute in an effort to make your trip sound more significant. Remember that Jesus is the hero, not your team. Use language that honors what God is already up to in the place you are headed. Use phrases like, “serve alongside,” “partner with” and “learn from.”
10. Say thank you. A great way to end your letter is with gratefulness for the people you are asking to partner with you in this mission trip. Thank them in advance for whatever way they choose to support you.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SENDING YOUR LETTER
Think about when to send. A good timeframe for many mission trip teams is about 3 or 4 months before your trip. Consider that you don’t want to send it so early people forget about the trip by the time you go, but you also want prayer for your team’s preparation process, not just the actual trip. Also, consider when you need financial support to arrive and plan accordingly.
Intentionally pick your people. Don’t forward your support letter to all your Facebook friends. Instead, take 10 or 20 minutes to think through whom you should send your support letter to. A few groups of people to consider include family, friends (even if they don’t have money to give you), people you know from church, people you know from school, people you want to invite to know you better, etc.
Don’t overload someone. When requesting financial support coordinate with your team to make sure the same family in your church doesn’t receive 20 letters from 20 different mission trippers.
Use snail mail. It’s easy to forget the attachment to a Facebook message, but there’s something meaningful about getting a support letter in the mail. When you put it in an envelope you could even include a separate picture asking for prayer during your trip. Who knows – you might wind up on someone’s fridge. 🙂
Consider print quality. If you’re printing your letter or picture, make sure you use a printer that doesn’t make your letter look like it’s from the 1980s. Maybe your church or a friend can help, and if not them, invest a little money at a local print shop. It’s worth the extra trouble.
Sending support letters is an important part of your mission trip process. They begin a story that you get to continue telling after the trip! Include others in your story by writing a really great support letter.
CLICK HERE to see Sam’s support letter from last summer, which includes a lot of the above suggestions, and PLEASE feel free to “steal” any parts you want to use (but maybe not the picture… that would be strange)!
Wanting to know more about YouthWorks? Click here to get more information or click here to get registered for your next mission trip.
This post was adapted from content put together by Vonn Dornbush, who is the Pastor of Impact Ministries at Calvary Church in Roseville, MN and has been leading teenagers on mission trips for over 25 years.
Sam Townsend helps write training, programming and marketing materials for YouthWorks mission trips. When he isn’t hanging around teenagers at church or digging into seminary homework, he is generally looking for a good conversation and a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to have it in. Sam still considers his first couple summers working for YouthWorks in Virginia and Pennsylvania communities some of the most formative times of his life.