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How to Write Better Fundraising Emails

Samantha Hunter
Published:  04/27/2021
Gmail window on a laptop
Photo by Stephen Phillips - Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash

Though email marketing might feel like old news, it’s still one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your organization whether you are trying to raise money or simply build your brand. According to a study by Campaign Monitor, the ROI for email marketing can be as high as 4400%. That’s $44 for every $1 spent. 

But it’s important to remember that people receive a lot of emails. I’m sure your own inbox is coming to mind. So how do you ensure that your email stands out and isn’t getting lost in the shuffle? Make sure you are following these six marketing best practices: 

1. Make it personal 

After years of receiving marketing emails and seeing ads online, our brains are trained to quickly spot something that’s autogenerated. When sending fundraising emails, try using a real person’s name from your organization as the sender instead of a generic email inbox. Half the battle is getting the recipient to open your email, so if it looks like it was sent to by a real person, there's a higher likelihood your email will be opened instead of going right to the trash folder.  

If your organization has an email automation platform like Pardot or Higher Logic, try using variable tags within the email copy to auto-populate your recipients name or previous donation amounts. Even if you don’t have an email automation platform, mail merge can be a powerful tool that will make your emails feel customized.

2. Keep it short and skimmable 

This is critical. Put yourself in your readers shoes. If you open an email that’s a giant block of text or you have to scroll down several times to see what the final call to action (CTA) is, you’re pretty likely to immediately delete the email without really reading it. 

Try to keep your email as short and skimmable as possible while still getting your point across. A paragraph should really be two to three sentences max. Bold headers throughout the email let readers quickly figure out who you are, what you’re asking, and why they should care.

3. Don’t make it look like an ad

Not only will the person receiving your email not want to read it if it looks like an ad, but a lot of times spam filters are set up to catch emails that are clearly automated. Leave off that giant banner image at the top. 

Though it might look boring at first, generic text emails tend to perform better than highly designed ‘sleek looking’ email templates. If an email looks like it's coming from a real person, recipients are more likely to read through it all and see your final CTA.

4. Tell them what their donation will do 

Most donors give to your organization because they are drawn to the mission and want to support it. If you can break down exactly what their gift will go towards, people will be more likely to give. The more transparent the better. 

Also, try highlighting fundraising gaps or goals you are trying to reach as an organization. Your donor probably has a gift amount in mind, but if you send out an email that says, “We need $x to get us to our goal,” they might be inclined to give a little more. 

5. Avoid cold outreach

If there’s an audience you haven’t communicated with in a while, you probably shouldn’t ask for a donation right out of the gate. Put your marketing hat on and ‘warm up’ your prospective donors first. 

Try sending them something high-level about the work your philanthropy team or organization is doing first. Then follow-up with your donation request later. There’s no hard and fast rule about how often you should be emailing your audience, but try to strike the right balance. If you send outreach too often, it will become white noise. 

Now you know some tips and tricks for writing more effective emails, so it’s time to start building out your next fundraising email campaign. Check out this post to learn how to segment your audience, why it’s important, and how it can impact your campaign results. 

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Meet The Author

Sam Hunter headshot
Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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