How to Write Fundraising Emails that Raise Money

by Heather Stewart

As more organisations are considering adding email fundraising into their fundraising mix, I thought it might be helpful to give some practical advice on what to include (and what not to)

Golden Rules

  • Subject Line – keep it at 50 characters or less and don’t use ‘shouting’ symbols ($, £, CAPS, use of the words, Free, Sale etc – as they’re all likely to head straight into spam).  Check for words to avoid
  • Make sure emails go out to a specific individual ‘Dear xxxx’ and that they come from a specific person
  • Ask for a specific amount and explain what it will do
  • Provide an option to give a monthly regular gift or a one-off donation

Other Hints & Tips:

  • As you’re using email rather than direct mail, it’s worth considering including hyperlinks to video content, YouTube or audio, for example, providing donor soundbites or case studies or to illustrate the work that you do
  • Give the recipient an option to do something other than donate, especially if this is your first approach to them – so ask them to volunteer or share your email with their networks
  • Use an email marketing service, such as Aweber, MailChimp, dotmailer, Constant Contact or one of the many others, so you can track open and unsubscribe rates, monitor click-throughs, contributions and growth rates.  This will enable you to continue to adjust your email fundraising approaches as necessary to ensure they are as successful as possible.  You can also easily set up split tests to determine which approaches work best.

So, once you’ve considered the Golden Rules, what should you put in your email?


1. Be clear about what your request is in the subject line (less will open but more of those who do open will give)

“Feed a Starving Child this Christmas”

“Support Your Local Homeless Shelter’

2. Keep the email short and concise – 2 to 3 paragraphs at most

3. Email should include:

  • Paragraph 1:  outlines the problem/need that you are trying to address through this appeal – Include a hyperlink to the Donation page on the website in this paragraph (don’t embed this into text, use the actual hyperlink)
  • Paragraph 2:  explain how their donation/support will help to meet the problem
  • Paragraph 3:  provide examples of where their support will go – you could provide links to other media content here

Include a second hyperlink to the Donation page

  • Closing Statement thanking them for their support and highlighting what a difference it will make along with the Signature of a specific person in your organisation
  • P.S. with final statement and other hyperlink to the donation page
  • Footer of the email should include navigation and donate button

4. Make sure the donation landing page isn’t cluttered with copy and that the donation button is above the fold – so they don’t have to scroll down to find it.  Include a thank you at the foot of the page.

And of course, once the donations start to roll in, you have to be prompt in thanking donors and make sure that they feel valued.  48 hours is the absolute maximum you should aim to leave between receiving a gift and sending a thank you.

  • Say Thank You in the subject line of the email
  • Content: say thank you for their donation and provide an update on the campaign (if relevant/possible).  If not, say you will keep in touch with regular updates on the campaign.

Put another donation hyperlink in footer. You are not asking them to donate again simply providing another opportunity should they wish to take it.  And you never know, if your update shows that you are close to your target, a donor may consider making a second donation, or changing their one off donation to a regular donation, to help you to get there.

Good luck with your email fundraising campaign – let us know if you’ve any other suggestions in the comments below or if you’ve any tips on what has worked well for you.

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