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Bruce Barton’s fundraising letters for Deerfield Academy: From 1945, letters three, four and five.

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The Bruce Barton letters.

Read letters one and two here, three, four and five below.

SOFII is indebted to writer Fergal Byrne (see the ‘How I wrote that’ series elsewhere on SOFII) for bringing these brilliant fundraising letters to our attention. Click on the letters below to enlarge.

Letter three, part a. Letter 3, part b.

Letter three. Parts a. and b.

Letter four, part a. Letter four, part b.


Letter four. Parts a. and b.

Letter five, part a. Letter five, part b.

Letter five. Parts a. and b.

Letter five, part c.


As part of our mission to build a permanently accessible archive of great fundraising practice SOFII will soon bring you all 21 of Bruce Barton’s legendary fundraising letters for Deerfield Academy. You can find letters one and two here, letters three, four and five here, letters six, seven and eight here, letters nine, ten and eleven here and letters 12 to 14 here.


More case studies from Bruce Barton

SOFII's view

There are 21 letters in this series and these are numbers three to five. Here Bruce Barton is reporting back as any good fundraiser should (though perhaps much more effectively than most), giving his donors the feedback they need to keep on giving willingly. These letters are masterful examples of wrapping up serious information in easy conversational style. Deerfield’s donors must have looked out for these letters and welcomed them when they arrived. Small wonder that they were so successful.

Medium of communication:
Direct mail.

Type of charity:
Children, youth and family.

Target audience:

Country of origin:


Bruce Barton.

Name of exhibitor:
Ken Burnett

Date of first appearance:

The letters were written to raise money for Barton’s old school, Deerfield Academy. His objective in writing them is expressed in the first letter, when he says, ‘Our (his small informal committee’s) proposal is to canvas the possibility of finishing now the task which the panic of 1929 interrupted – to make Deerfield secure for the future.’


Note particularly from the first page of letter three the short, emotional anecdote about donations from the families of two Deerfield boys killed in the war. He gives masterly examples of how donations are used, skillfully linking these to running commentary on the fundraising campaign liberally interspersed with further reasons to give. Readers quickly get a sense from these letters of the feel and the character of the place and even for some of its inhabitants. Sterling stuff.

Note too that he includes some photographs with letter four. And how, when writing, Barton builds pride in the school and particularly in the effective fundraising of its parents. He sets a target, and makes it very difficult for any parent who has not yet given to continue to hold back. All this keeps raising money, of course. Some of his lines paint perfect pictures, such as, ‘Deerfield has been thought about and yearned for in ships and trenches and fox holes all over the world.’ Plus the sensible advice on tax avoidance, ‘next year good deeds will be more expensive.’

Letter five is a precise account of donations received so far and so presents a ‘how to’ guide for would-be donors on the most effective way to give. Even his explanations of tax-efficient giving have the rich flavour of story telling. The final line, in upper case throughout, is a succinct and timely observation that a fundraiser today might feel obliged to put in a PS. Bruce Barton was no slave to such formulae.

These letters are a joy to read and SOFII looks forward to bringing you more soon.

Other relevant information:

Find Bruce Barton's letters one and two here.

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