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What Makes a Successful Fund-raising E-mail?

Starting an e-mail program can be scary – but the best way to learn is to jump in and just start.

No fund-raising campaign in the 21st Century is complete without e-mail – especially when it comes to getting contributions from small-dollar donors. In the era of smartphones, when most mobile users have e-mail notifications set-up on their devices, e-mail fund-raising gives you powerful visibility.

But how do you make sure potential donors are engaging with these messages and not ignoring them? Here are what we believe to be the foundations of a successful fund-raising e-mail:

  1. Leverage Time and Timeliness
    To be successful, your e-mail campaign must be relevant and inspire donors to take action NOW. There are two ways to do this: with breaking news and by creating urgency.
    • Breaking News
      While we all try to plan out content to the best of our abilities, a lot of on-line fund-raising is reactive. It’s about catching and riding the wave of breaking news. With information so readily available and with constant notifications, people are receiving their news faster than ever before. This is your window – while it’s at the top of mind and in front of them and before the next big thing breaks.
    • Creating Urgency
      Hard deadlines are some of the most effective fund-raising e-mails. But the trick is to set a deadline that doesn’t seem to give the donor enough time to come back to it later. As humans, if donors feel they can do it later – they will.
  1. Create Unique and Engaging Content
    Now that you’ve determined the type of e-mail you’ll be sending, you’ll need to craft unique and engaging content that tells a narrative, states your points and has a compelling “call-to-action” (or CTA) that moves people to take the action you’re requesting.
    • CTA Placement is Key
      With donors being bombarded with e-mails, having your CTA towards the top of the e-mail is imperative. You only have a few seconds to grab (and maintain) someone’s attention. This can be done by putting your poll or petition front and center as a replacement to your logo.
  1. Keep Your E-mails Conversational
    You know what you’re writing about and you’ve crafted content that will maintain attention and move a donor to action. Now you need to ensure that your e-mail is clear, easy to follow and conversational.Keep these tips in mind while you write:
    • The biggest rule in fund-raising is that “people give to people.”
    • Make sure your content sounds like there is a human on the other side of that e-mail.
    • Personalization is also key. Using their name, zip or even their last donation amount that can be pulled dynamically into the copy make the donor feel less like this is a mass communication and more like you’re speaking directly to them.


Starting an e-mail program can be scary – but the best way to learn is to jump in and just start. Hope the above tips make it a little easier.
For more tips and tricks, check out our other blogs here.