Deerfield Academy: Bruce Barton’s fundraising letters from 1945, letters 3, 4 and 5

Exhibited by
June 03, 2011
Medium of Communication
Direct mail.
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Children, youth and family.
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

There are 22 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.

Creator / originator

Bruce Barton.

Summary / objectives

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, skilfully 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.