The 6 Keys to a Successful Fundraising Email

Checking your phone is one of many rhythms of life. You pick it up to read the news, text and call, engage in social media, and receive emails. While your nonprofit can reach out to donors through any of these means, email marketing is a tried-and-tested tool with enduring utility today.

Even with the advent of social media, email remains an inexpensive means of reaching out and embedding your organization in donors’ daily lives. To discover the keys to a successful fundraising email and up your outreach, read our helpful guide.

Don’t Spam Everyone in Your Database

No one likes generic spam-like messages that don’t really pertain to them. Before you write a word, consider your target audience. While some emails are good for everyone in your email database, delineating subgroups allows you to hone in your messaging and promote email engagement. You should send email according to the following factors:

  • Donation Frequency (or Infrequency)
  • Personal Communication Preferences
  • Type of Service (Donation, Volunteering, Advocacy)

Delivering tailored messaging to these and other clusters of people allows you to do something very important—personalize. By acknowledging their current involvement and providing next steps that make sense for them, you ensure more people respond or donate. Addressing a message to someone by name is an increasingly popular measure many organizations take to further personalize things.

Hook Readers with Your Subject Header

Before a reader realizes an email is or isn’t for him or her, they read the subject line. Each alert they receive includes this and little else, so their decision to open it or let later emails bury it can depend on the quality of your subject line. The trouble is, you only have about 50 characters to work with.


There are several best-practices to remember. First, avoid vague subject lines like the plague. Directly indicating what your content is about shows readers you aren’t trying to swindle or trick them. Especially for charities, honesty is vital for fostering donor trust.


Good content typically appeals to emotions. Anger and sincerity each connect with people, and, though there are times for charities to be angry, sincerity is your tone of choice for subject lines. Suggest actions they can take to stop an injustice, which may include reading on for more info or directly donating from the email. Press into your desire to create long-awaited changes in your area of expertise and write with feeling. In the end, you’ll get clicks from people with a heart for your cause.

Weave Narrative and Numbers Together

A sincere subject line requires sincere content centered on the people or animal life your programs support, but you need solid numbers to accompany content too.


In your email, give compelling anecdotes to celebrate your successes, praise your staff and volunteers, and segue into future programs. Tell a complete story in the space you have, pointing to a full arc of introduction, conflict, climax, and resolution. These show readers how your organization can meet people in the midst of their lives’ conflicts and bring change. They also illustrate how your own team tackles challenges together, creating their own shared narrative.

Each of these brands of story are intoxicating for people. People who end up on your email list usually don’t do so by accident. They want to see the homeless find permanent housing, the abused escape their abusers and live full lives, and endangered species brought back into abundance. Also, they desire to participate in something that gives them a sense of personal (and communal) purpose. Showing off how your organization is capable of providing both through stories drives solid donor engagement.


The eternal trouble with narrative alone is that it isn’t a means of giving the big picture. Many charities have programs that help some, but how can potential donors know you are a good investment? To ease number-hungry donors, intersperse program-wide data along with your stories. Together, they allow you to hone in on one person or group while also speaking to the total impact a program had. Data is also key to projecting into the future, which is another instrument for securing donations.

Immerse Readers Via Images and Video

As you draft emails, don’t assume people will respond to a text-heavy message. Combining visual media and writing is a balanced and effective counterstrategy. While visually appealing, images and videos also help drive home narratives and numbers.

If you highlight one person or family, include a genuine picture (not a stock photo) of them so your readers can see their smiles. Before and after shots make clear the substantial work you did as well. And to make your data more effective, display it in a visually-appealing and easy-to-grasp graphic.

Overall, breaking up your content this way encourages people to continue reading, upping your chances of getting them to your call to action.

Don’t Clutter the Screen

Another key to a successful fundraising email is its design. While you may have pages of content you could write and a camera roll of pictures and videos you could embed, you risk losing your reader by packing the screen. Begin the process with a formatting template and include only what is absolutely necessary.

Though this seems to preclude helpful information, it forces you to prioritize only the most effective sentences, pictures, and graphs rather than throwing everything in randomly. When you finish, you have an email that packs a punch due to the high value of each element and that is capable of directing donors onward.

Simplify Donor Next Steps

Once you get to your call to action—a request for money or tangible items—you need to make it obvious and easy to use.

One Clear Link

Limit your request to one specific step. Asking too much from someone can turn them off with a fundraiser, but considering a single request is easier. For this one request, make the donate button unmistakable—a bold color and larger font help, though you don’t want to be obnoxious with it.

A Common Sense Online Giving Platform

When donors click on your donate link, make sure it redirects to a transaction-ready site. Lead them to the donation page without an intermediary step, and keep the required personal information at a minimum. If would-be donors have any cause to stop, they may abandon the gift altogether. Automate your receipts so they can store it in their records without asking you, too.

If you’re crafting a fundraising email which asks for tangible donations, connect donors with a respected wholesale supplier. Backpacks USA offers bulk wholesale toys, blank backpacks, and many more low-cost, high-quality donation items you may need.


The 6 Keys to a Successful Fundraising Email

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