5 Tips for Creating a Successful Fundraising Email

Caron Beesley is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. She is a marketing communications consultant and writer for Salsa. She has over 15 years experience helping organizations large and small connect and engage with their audiences. She has a degree in English Literature and Communication Studies and is a British ex pat, currently soaking up southern living in Cary, North Carolina.

Creating a fundraising email that makes a big impact with your supporters isn’t always easy. You’re competing with super full inboxes and other demands on your readers’ attention, and of course, you’ve got to compel them to open their wallet.

We’ve put together five tips that we think will knock your fundraising goals out of the ballpark.

1. Keep Your Emails Succinct

According to Marketing Sherpa, the average person spends 10-15 seconds on each email they open. That’s not just reading time, it also includes time spent looking at graphics and wrapping their heads around your calls-to-action. Bottom line, your supporters only give you a few seconds to convince them to act on your donation request.

As a rule of thumb, aim for between 180 and 250 words at most for your fundraising emails. For your e-newsletters, aim for no more than 500 words (which is the equivalent of a full page of copy in Word—a lot, right?).

2. Match the Email to the Donation Page

Make sure you match the design, visual and messaging elements of your email to your actual donation pages. But don’t stop there. If you’re being intelligent about your campaigns and sending custom asks to supporters based on their previous donation history, you need to direct them to a donation page that has that same ask amount as one of the values on the page. It’s an important point that we cover more fully in Are You Being Intelligent in Your Email Fundraising Appeals?

For more helpful tips, check out these best practices for landing pages and donation pages.

3. Use Images that Appeal to the Heart

When you approach your donation request emails, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about what you’re going to write. But what about the pictures that you include? Images are often an afterthought, but your image strategy should be at the forefront as you plan your email campaigns. After all, images can be incredibly powerful and appeal to both the hearts and minds of your supporters. If you know what motivates your audience, whether it’s anger at social injustice or awe at the beauty of a remote place that needs protecting, good visual storytelling focuses on appealing to emotion.

You don’t have to be a genius with graphics to do it, either. Check out 8 Best Practices for Motivating Supporters through Visual Storytelling for some tips on incorporating images into your emails and other online outreach. To avoid a last minute panic each time you come to write your email, create a story bank of images that speak to your cause ahead of time. Then read more about how you can optimize your images for success.

There are some examples of great nonprofit fundraising emails and use of visuals on the Salsa Pinterest page.

4. Optimize It with A/B Testing

Boost your donation chances by using A/B testing to see how one email performs against another. Don’t be put off by the acronym, it’s actually a simple concept that involves creating different versions of an email and testing them to see which performs best—A or B!

For instance, you might be wondering, “Will more people open an email with the subject ‘Please donate now’ than ‘Help us reach our goal?'”

A/B testing makes it a snap to find the answer. Just fire off two different versions each to 5-10% of your email recipients, then send the better-performing version to the remaining 80-90% of your list. You can test a variety of variables such as your call to action, use of images, different donation pages, even the time and date that you send your emails. For examples, do emails sent on a Friday afternoon perform better than those sent on a Monday morning?

Trust us, no one gets it right the first time. Be prepared to track and iterate. Track open rates, click-throughs, donations, unsubscribes and other statistics. Don’t wait until your campaign is over—measure right away.

5. Repeat Yourself

Once you know what works, make a point of repeating yourself. Remember the 10-15 second rule we mentioned in the first step. You only have a small window of opportunity to get across the call-to-action and why it matters—so repeat it in your main body copy, in sidebars and in buttons. You could also use statistics and quotes to help communicate points clearly, and repeat them in call-out boxes.

Bringing It All Together

Speaking of repetition, take a look at the infographic below for some tips on bringing it all together.


This article was originally featured on Salsa. Check out the original article.


Caron Beesley

August 18, 2015

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