6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Fundraising Emails

Email is a critical — and profitable — fundraising tool for non-profits. But, everyone’s inboxes are overloaded with emails every day. So how can you make your messages stand out? 

Below are six best practices to help you make sure your emails are opened — and motivate donors to give.   

1.       Spend time on your subject line.  

Think of your subject line as your “teaser.” It is the first thing people see and they will decide whether to read or delete your email based on it. If your subject line doesn’t catch your reader’s interest, your email isn’t likely to perform well. Here are a few pointers:

  • Be direct. Use subject lines like “deadline tomorrow,” “renew now” or “sign the petition.” When you read these subject lines, you know exactly what the email is going to be about. Use subject lines like this in annual campaigns or advocacy emails.

  • One to two words. Sometimes it is more effective to leave the reader guessing. With so few words, the reader is intrigued, and must open the message to find out what it is all about. Often, that means you’ll see a strong open rate. Examples include using “Hey,” “Meet Sam” or “It’s true.”

  • Numbers. Don’t be afraid to use numbers in subject lines. Numbers in subject lines often spark people’s interest. For example “3 ways to voice your support” or even something like “1,250 meals” can pique curiosity.

  •  Use the reader’s name.  People love to see their own name—and tests show that using first names in subject lines can improve open rates. For example “Rachel, don’t miss out!” or “Good news, Rachel.”

  • Inclusive language. Using the words “you, us, and we” is a best practice in fundraising, and putting these words in subject lines makes it about the donor from the get-go. For example, “Share your story” or “This is your last chance.”

2.       Focus on the donor.

Always make your email about the donors and how they can make a difference. Remind them of all the ways they are helping your non-profit achieve its goals, and that those accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without them. One good tip is to count how many times you use the word “you” or “your” in the email. It should be around five times.

3.       Don’t hide the ask.

It’s important that your ask is clear and visible for the reader. We recommend placing your first ask in one of the top three paragraphs. Additionally, you should repeat the ask two or three more times throughout the email, and represent it graphically with a donation button or call-out box. The more clickable space there is, the easier it is to drive people to your landing page.

4.       Use concrete goals.

Use goals to evoke a sense of urgency and help the donor strive for something tangible. Whether your goal is tied to a number of meals, donors or a dollar challenge, it will probably help increase response. Plus, you can set your goals around a specific timeline to add even more urgency.

5.       Make your tone casual.  

Your emails should be casually worded and conversational. Email by nature is less formal, so people expect a more casual, personal tone. When writing your emails, ask yourself “Would I sound like this if I were talking to someone?” If the answer is no, then your tone may be a bit too formal.  

6.       Make your design easy on the eyes.

People have a natural tendency to skim their emails. Therefore, it’s critical that you make it easy for them to find key pieces of information. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Always have your asks be hyperlinked and in a different color than the rest of your copy.

  • Use bullets when listing items.

  • Use a bold font to highlight key points.

  • Keep paragraphs short—remember, some people are reading their emails on their phones.

  • Include hyperlinked graphics like donate buttons.

  • Use a mobile-optimized format so the text is easy to read on a smart phone or tablet.