What’s in my Mailbox | Grace Cafe packs an emotional punch

July 6, 2016


A crowdfunding appeal for homelessness, hunger, and dignity: Grace Cafe, brought to you by Rachel Ramjattan

My friend and fellow fundraiser, Rachel Ramjattan, CFRE, recently passed this absolute gem of an appeal letter on to me. It comes from a nonprofit called Grace Cafe, located in Danville, Kentucky. Rachel prefaced the appeal by explaining that she’d spearheaded Grace Cafe’s crowdfunding campaign, and included this letter, which targeted lapsed donors, as an integral component of the effort.

Rachel made my day when she closed her email with a glowing testimonial: “Thank YOU for teaching me so much about emotional writing. You should be proud :-)” How could I not feel elated?

When it comes to this appeal, all of the proper stars are aligned, and as a result, it is awesome. First and foremost, the undeniable superpowers of stellar emotional storytelling are woven through every fiber of its being. The opening line is almost jarring in how it packs an immediate and colossal emotional punch: No one should be hungry or homeless! Isn’t that the truth?

The narrative that is the letter comes straight from Aaron, a Grace Cafe client who has both reaped the benefits of Grace Cafe’s services and served as a volunteer to give back to those who’ve given him so much.

This letter has transcended typical appeal status and emerged as a strong plea, because of how beautifully it inspires certain kinds of emotions that motivate the reader (and former supporter) to behave in certain ways. The urgency is there, and it fuels empathy, compassion, and a strong need to be a part of Grace Cafe’s mission. Aaron, his father, his friend Anthony, his girlfriend Jess, and Jess’ mom found themselves homeless and hungry, and Grace Cafe was their savior in their collective time of dire need. When Jess read the letter to her family, according to Grace’s Executive Director, Rochelle Bayless, “[There was] NOT A DRY EYE IN THE HOUSE. WOW.”

For the creation of this appeal, Rachel was provided with a 20-minute recorded phone interview, so she decided what parts to keep and what parts to trim. Ultimately, she was a story curator, and she gave Aaron a space to share his experience, adding yet another compelling note to the letter. This first-person perspective is rarely encountered in the appeal letter; that of the person whose life has been transformed by a nonprofit’s amazing work. But it should be, because it makes all the sense in the world. The emotional storytelling presented here goes beyond the physical aspects of hunger and homelessness and penetrates the emotional side of it. The lack of dignity. It makes my heart ache.

Even though the heart of this letter is rooted in an individual experience, it still speaks directly to the reader. The “yous” aren’t just plentiful — they’re strategic, and each one counts. Each one further cements the truth: Grace Cafe is doing life-changing work, and the only way they can continue onward is with YOU. Your support matters so much to them, especially now.

The PS comes in the form of a message from Rochelle, ties the appeal to the ongoing crowdfunding campaign, and suggests specific denominations. The timing is perfect, and so is the placement. And running parallel to their pay-what-you-can afford model, Grace Cafe asks that their supporters donate what they can afford. Because, without a doubt, they know that each and every gift matters.

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