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How to Write a Fundraising Email

Use these strategies to make your fundraising emails stand out.

So, it’s go-time on end-of-year fundraising planning. You and your colleagues have huddled. You’ve strategized. You figured out what you're going to highlight from this year. Your game plan is ready. And now, you sit down at your keyboard, look at your screen and oh. crap. what. do. I. say? 

Writing a fundraising email can be a daunting task and competition for attention is becoming more challenging every day. But here's the thing that is going to set your message apart from everyone else's: a compelling story

Here’s why: everyone responds to a well-told story. By telling your organization's story to donors in a touching and personal way, they are more likely remember it and take action. 

And that’s just the beginning. Here are some other tips to writing a killer fundraising email:

Be specific.

Donors like to know where their money is going. Tying your appeal to something tangible is a great way to let people know how their money will be spent: Will their money go to feed "the hungry" or will 25 meals be provided for families who need them?

Let supporters know that they are actually helping to provide for something real.

Note: Data can help to drive your point, but linking the data to something tangible is what will make the connection.

Make the email personal.

Fundraising works best when it’s one to one. When crafting your email message, envision your “typical” supporter and address them. Just them. And tell them why it’s important to support your organization? What specifically, will their donations support?

When possible, put names or faces to the people, animals or social justice issue that the campaign will help. The more targeted your request, the more it will likely resonate with your audience, and thus, the more likely your supporters are to donate. 


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Keep it short.

The reality is, no one has time to read a long email, let alone a long fundraising email. Most people will skim it it to determine if it is worth reading. Make your paragraphs short. Overall, the email should probably be 300-500 words.  Anything more than that, and people simply won’t want to read it.

You can include links to your website for additional information. But short and to the point is optimum.

Another tip: use section headlines, a solid subject line and a captivating opening sentence. And yes, a P.S. image, a graphic, and bolded words also help.

But be smart about it. Make sure that if someone only scanned the images and bolded heads and the p.s., they would still be moved by your story. And want to give.

Entice with your subject line and your first sentence.

Don’t be coy or cryptic - or worse, tiresome. What you need and want from your donors is too important to lose them at the subject line. A good subject line will engage the reader. Questions are good.

And you can tease. Just be careful it does not backfire. Your beginning sentence should be inspirational, intriguing. Get them to react.

Be realistic.

A single donation (most likely) will not solve world hunger or cure cancer. But every dollar does help. Just make sure that you're being clear about how those donor dollars will be spent. 

Asking supporters to "chip in" at a lower amount can be just as impactful because it lowers the giving bar for a greater number of people. Consider lowering your ask string (but not until you read the next point below).

Test. Test. Test.

And we mean every major element in the donation process from your communications to your donation page. Regardless of your list size, test at least 3 subject lines per email.

Use the amount of donations that come from the winning subject line as your metric for success. Many organizations focus only on open rate, but sometimes the subject line, though compelling enough to open, does not lead to actual donations. Keep your eye on those larger goals.

Don’t be scared. You can do this - you were a born storyteller!

If you want to unlock more online marketing and supporter engagement, check out these additional resources:

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Topics: Fundraising Marketing