fundraising emails

In 2021, nonprofit email list sizes grew by 7%. That is 7% more donors that the sector is reaching out to using the tried and true method of email fundraising. 

Fundraising emails are also one of the most effective tools for donor retention, acquisition, and conversion. So, it is vital you know how to write a fundraising email in a way that captures the attention of your reader and spurs them to take action.  

This article outlines five best practices for writing fundraising emails. You can use these tips to up your email communications and engage more donors right now.

1. Include a Clear and Direct Call-to-Action

Perhaps the most important thing for you to take away from this article is that you need a clear Call-to-Action (CTA) in your nonprofit fundraising email. 

A CTA is a prompt that encourages your readers to take a desired step or action. Your CTA should be simple, clear, and straightforward. In a fundraising email, this will most often be a call to donate. 

While some may feel like a coy request for donations, such as “Join the fight” will be better received, this is actually false. In a direct comparison experiment, the vague CTA saw 50% fewer donations

A direct CTA such as, “Donate to [charity name] today!” will tell readers exactly what they need to do, and without it, your email has no purpose, and readers will be left feeling confused. Don’t dilute the directive by adding more than one CTA. Keep it simple! 

2. Segment your email lists

Donor segmentation is the process of categorizing donors by shared traits. Segmenting your donor lists allows you to tailor your fundraising email to a specific group so you can be more specific and personal in your communications. 

In a recent study, Mailchimp found that segmented email lists led to 100.95% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns. This is because segmented lists allow you to write emails that are specific to that group and, as a result, will resonate more with those readers. 

For fundraisers, segmentation is an opportunity to build a stronger donor relationship with every fundraising email and get more traction with your donors. Some factors to consider when creating donor segments include location, donor interests, frequency of donation, size of the donation, and donor demographics. 

Start Segmenting Your Donors

Use this FREE Donor Segmentation Template to segment your donors and contacts based on their level of engagement. 

3. Track key email metrics

For every nonprofit fundraising email that you send, you should be tracking email metrics to see their progress. This allows you to understand the impact your emails are having on recipients and improve your email marketing performance over time. 

Every fundraising email is also an opportunity to steward your donor relationships, so you should ensure that you are optimizing this touchpoint. Here are a few key email metrics that you should be tracking 

a. Email open rate

Email open rate shows you how many emails get opened. This metric provides insight into how well your subject line is being received, as well as other factors such as the timing of the email and how the email fits into the wider campaign. 

That said, given Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection rules, keep in mind that this isn’t the most reliable way to measure your email marketing performance. You should prioritize email click rate instead. 

b. Email click rate

Email click rate tells you how many emails get a reader to click on the CTA, which helps you to understand how well the copy of your email and CTA are performing.

c. Email click-through rate

Email click-through rate shows you how many emails that are clicked on lead to actual donations, which at the end of the day, is the most important thing. 

4. Nail the subject line

Your fundraising email’s subject line is your chance to capture the attention of recipients and encourage them to open your emails. When crafting your fundraising emails, don’t consider the subject line as a second thought. It should be one of the first things you think about as you plan your email communications.  

35% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone, so if you don’t put the effort into perfecting your subject line, you could risk losing a lot of potential donors. However, one great subject line does not suit all audiences. Depending on the donor segment and email content, you will want to change your subject line to make it applicable. 

We recommend making your subject line… 

  • Mysterious: Don’t give away the entire email in the subject line; just give a hint i.e., The biggest night of the year is around the corner… 
  • Urgency: Demonstrate why the reader should open the email now i.e., Quick, [recipient’s name], we are so close to our goal!
  • Personal: Include the recipient’s name, or other indicators that you are talking directly to the reader, i.e., This is your chance to make a difference in [insert recipient’s community]. 
  • Authenticity: Don’t get caught up in too many buzzwords in your subject line. Let your nonprofit and its work shine through, i.e., We are giving blood; you can too. 

5. Make it personal 

People give to people. While your email will never replace a handshake, you can make it as personal as possible. There are several ways that you can humanize an email, and the easiest way is to address them by name. NextAfter found that there was a 270% increase in email clicks when they began an email by addressing the recipient by name. 

Here are some more ways that you can make your personalize your fundraising emails: 

  • Start with some casual chat before jumping into your value proposition, just like you would in person. You could reference the weather, public holidays, or upcoming events. 
  • Design your email less like a highly stylized poster and more like a plain text letter to a friend. You can still use some images (of real people) to get emotions across, but don’t make it too flashy that it detracts from the authenticity. 
  • Finally, sign off from a real person. Be sure to include a person’s name in the signature. 

One final tip for writing a great fundraising email: read it out loud after writing it. 

After doing so, ask yourself if it makes you feel anything. A fundraising email should feel genuine and compassionate and make you feel like a valued member of a community. Reading it out loud will help you understand how well the message in your email comes across.

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