Fundraising is its own animal in the world of marketing. I get it.

But the animal doesn’t have to be wild and untamable. Creating email appeals that speak to donors and move them to action, move them to give, is certainly within your reach.

Let’s explore the basics — and the HOW-TOs — of writing fundraising emails. Once you put these into consistent practice, you’ll see your e-appeals go from good to great!

First, I’ll answer an important question: Why is email fundraising so important?

It’s quite simple, really:

  1. It’s a low-cost fundraising channel, and, better yet, you can reach people who may not respond to direct mail.
  2. You’ll enjoy instant gifts — a donor can read, click, and make a contribution within minutes.
  3. In addition, with an email file that’s been properly nurtured, you’ll see a great response and ROI.

Now that we’ve got the above established, here are keys to creating a successful e-appeal to make your asking worthwhile:

  • Invite the reader to do one thing. Don’t ask donors to give, sign a petition, and download an e-book. Readers always take the path with the least friction if asked to do multiple things within one communication. If you’re asking for a donation, you want that message shining through. Which leads to the next point …
  • Clarity is king. Messaging should be clear and concise.
  • Be direct with your call to action. Don’t use ambiguous words like “support” or “consider a gift.” Instead, ask your reader to “Give Now” or “Donate.” Don’t be afraid to ask for money!
  • Sometimes, simpler is better. Many organizations find that plain text emails get higher deliverability rates and increased donations than to those in full HTML format.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to get people to convert, but first we need to get them to open the email. This is where the subject line and preview text come in.

Your subject line:

  1. Should get your reader’s attention
  2. Doesn’t tell the whole story, but merely opens an intriguing story loop
  3. Will have a higher open rate if it’s personalized
  4. Connects with the preview text …

The preview text:

  1. Is the content you see after the subject line but before the greeting
  2. Is recommended to be between 40 and 120 characters total in length
  3. Doesn’t give away the story, but continues to build mystery and grab attention — it’s an additional “gateway” into your email’s message

People often wonder who the organization’s emails should be from — who should be listed as the sender. Here are my suggestions:

  • The organization name itself (ex: Charity Hope)
  • The org’s President (ex: John Smith)
  • The President and the organization (ex: John Smith, Charity Hope)

Important notes: Many people like to connect with a person, not just an organization name; you should test which emails perform better with which sender is listed; you can mix in other sender names, depending on the email and messaging, such as the Development Director, Head of Disaster Response, etc., and see how those perform.

Now, let’s get into the email itself …

Your greeting is an easy opportunity for personalization. “Hi, {First Name},” or “Good morning, {First Name},” to open each email creates a connection and a conversation with your donor.

In the same way that your subject line should get attention (without being click-bait, of course), your intro paragraph should do so as well. Keep in mind that you only have a few seconds to get the reader to choose to continue reading all the good stuff you’re communicating in that email!

Telling a story or including a testimony is a good way to connect emotionally with your donors. Explain a situation where something bad might have happened unless someone just like {First Name} stepped in to solve the problem. Don’t focus too much on your organization, but instead on how someone like the reader intervened with their giving. Then, connect the story to someone else who is still in need.

When it comes to the ask of an email, tell the reader exactly what you want them to do — be clear, be direct, be specific. “When you give $75 today, you’ll provide the tuition necessary to send a child like Juan to school for a year.” Move the donor emotionally to want to give, and express urgency accurately through your call to action, explaining WHY that donor should give right now.

Furthermore, connect the donation request to the solution. Use dollar amounts to show the reader what their donation will accomplish: “$25 provides a school uniform,” “$50 gives books,” and “$75 provides tuition.” Show how the donor will solve the problem by giving.

An email’s closing is the signoff from the sender and should be a real person, not the “Team at Charity Hope.”

Any P.S. you include should restate the need, the solution, and the call to action. It’s important to note that some readers merely scan the email and actually read the P.S.


Don’t let writing fundraising emails intimidate you out of engaging with your donors online and raising more funds for your mission.