How To Craft a Fundraising Email That Stands Out From the Crowd


The majority of your donors likely receive fundraising emails all the time, as they constitute one of the best fundraising ideas the modern era has to offer. Not only are emails a wonderfully efficient, direct, and practically instantaneous means of communicating with your nonprofit's supporters, they remain one of the simplest ways to request funding. Given the exorbitant amount of emails the majority of us receive on a daily basis, it is extremely important that your organization’s correspondences stand out.

As such, in this article, we aim to help you bolster your opening rates by providing you with pertinent information on how to craft the most eye-catching emails possible. 

Whether you are looking for silent auction ideas or more information on nonprofit startup grants, we have got you covered. We have even thrown in a few extra tips and tricks to set ourselves apart from the crowd. Let’s dig in! 

Let’s go!

No time to read this article now? Download it for later.


Why Send Fundraising Emails?

Well, firstly, they are free! And if you employ a donor engagement tool to help you formulate the most compelling ones you possibly can, they cost very little. These tools make sending out emails to all of your supporters, or even a portion of them when necessary, simple and easy. With the investment of very little time on your part, you will be able to reach many people all at once. 

While email certainly acts as an avenue through which you may update your supporters on any recent happenings in or achievements of your organization, it can also help you solicit monetary as well as in-kind donations that many people are likely to respond to, especially if these requests are accompanied by a strong emotional appeal and conveyance of gratitude. Because emails can be read at the convenience of your supporters, they are a more gentle approach to fundraising than some traditional avenues (like going door-to-door or hanging out at the entrance of a grocery store!). 

The problem with them is that the average opening rate of nonprofit emails is 25%.This number is slightly higher than the opening rates of emails coming from other industries, but it might seem rather low to nonprofits that hope all of their supporters are viewing their messages.

So while fundraising emails can turn basic supporters into recurring donors, they have to open them first! And this means you have to communicate essential information in a relatively small amount of text (as much as the subject line and preheader text section will allow), and pack a lot of punch while doing so. Then, you have to keep your supporters interested as they read the bulk of what you have to say.

Emails are essentially a wonderful way to communicate with supporters, but they have to be crafted in a concise, engaging manner. You have an opportunity with them to create a brand image that is consistent with your values and yearnings to make the world a better place. You also have the opportunity to communicate with your supporters in a very intimate, direct, and wholehearted way. In the following sections we will go over just how to get your point across in a humble yet effective manner.     


The Subject Line

Your subject line is a very powerful way to increase the likelihood that someone will open your email. If you follow the common practices we list below, you can boost your open rates substantially - like by up to 22% - creating more traction for your campaign. Use attention-grabbing sentences, and stick to the point!

Blog_Images-articles_Emily-writingEmily needs to write this down! She did not know how large of an impact a subject line can have!

Keep it Short and Punchy

Your subject line should be informative, but brief. You want the viewer to be able to read it as they scroll through their inbox. It should catch their attention enough for them to want to click on it, so try to leave some elements to surprise. Be clear, use as few words as possible, and inform recipients what they will find in the email. 

Avoid Spammy Elements

Do not use excessive punctuation or emojis, block capitals, or overused catchphrases, like "click here!". Your recipient has likely seen it all before, so catch their eye in a unique, endearing, and authentic way - not a gimmicky one. You want the viewer to be interested, but you also do not have a lot of space, so avoid unnecessary details. 

Notably, email servers filter out correspondences that appear to be spam, based on a number of criteria. It is not likely that your email will actually be mistaken as spam, so you do not generally have to worry about that, although you may want to encourage your recipients to add your organization’s email address to their address book just in case.

Garner a Sense of Urgency

Set a deadline for your fundraiser, and include it in the subject line of your email. The viewer may be less inclined to wait until a later date to donate if they know there is a timestamp on their contribution. Create clear CTAs, and ask them to donate in multiple emails (perhaps sent out every three days, so as not to be vexing), using creative yet urgent language. Tell the donor what could happen if your goals are not met, and what will happen once they are. 

Individualize Your CTA

Use your recipient’s name - not only in the greeting of your email but in its subject line. People are 26% more likely to open emails if their first name can be found within the header. Personalizing emails makes supporters feel like they are an integral part of your mission, and that you appreciate them for it. Make them feel like their voice and their loyalty matters, that they are an asset to what you do.

Pro Tip: Software like HubSpot can be used to automatically add your recipient's name to the subject line of (and greeting within) your emails so that you do not have to manually do it. This is a huge asset when you send out large batches of them! 

Here are a few potential subject lines that exemplify the above insights:

  • "Time is running out! All donations made by midnight tonight will be matched…"

  • "Action alert - wild horses need you to act now before bill X is passed…"

  • "Show your support for the voiceless by this Friday - it could be the difference between puppy mills living on or becoming a thing of the past…"



Once again, do not forget your recipient’s name. There are some components beyond this you can add to your salutations to further encourage your supporters to read on.

Keep it Seasonal

Whether it is spring, summer, fall or winter, you can find a way to use the "reason for the season" to your benefit. When it is fall, for example, organizations that distribute clothes and other necessities to underprivileged families could mention the increasing need for warm clothing. Along those lines, realize about one-third of annual giving occurs in December, meaning the spirit of giving and good cheer run strong when people have the holidays on their mind. Be aware of what is going on in and around you socially, culturally and beyond based on the time of year you are in; use it to your advantage - market accordingly.

Reference Recent Events

In the subheads (subheadings), feel free to talk about recent events. This could be as simple as mentioning a win for a local sports team, or the weather patterns you are all struggling with (or enjoying). As long as your reference is relevant to the reader, it will  draw them in. Make any small talk you utilize personable - it will help your supporters relate to the email and its content, increasing the chances of building your relationship with them, which often ends in donation. 

fundraising-email-salutationMatt is ready to start sending out fundraising emails!

Personalize Where Possible

It can be difficult to do this when you are sending out massive amounts of emails to your outreach, but when you can manage, try to create some personalization beyond just using the recipient’s first name. This could be a reference to an inside joke that took place at a meeting, an event, or in an online community. Donor segmentation - essentially categorizing them in a variety of ways, like what their interests are or what aspect of your organization they tend to support - can be a useful strategy in finding ways to personalize emails of various types. 

If you can get highly personal, however, like when you plan to send an email out to only one person, then it is a very good idea to mention something specific you know is going on in their life, like a recent graduation or move to a new job.


Body Text

The body of your email will inform donors of the details of your fundraiser. It is important to hit all of the most important points while holding their attention. If they are reading the body text, they have made it this far, so you want to make the most of their attention. Avoid long paragraphs, and steer clear of that spammy language. 

Focus on the Value Proposition

Many nonprofits tend to focus on the importance of the length of the emails for fundraising events, but in reality, this is a very subjective topic. The appropriate length for your email will depend on the details of your fundraiser, and whether or not more information is necessary. A simple holiday fundraiser for a local hospital is easy to explain and market, however, raising money to combat the actions of a specific organization is another story. 

You should use as few words as possible to convey your message, but you can communicate several messages if they are relevant. Your value proposition is the largest reason that people should donate to your organization as opposed to another. You want to ensure complete clarity. 

Personalize Your Message

When your recipient feels as though they are just a part of a massive online mailing list, they are less likely to respond positively to the email. Personalizing the message is a great way to help make your donors feel special; like the vital part of your team that they are. Be sure to use the second person when writing your email using language like "you" and "we" to help them feel like part of something bigger. It might take some extra time to generate awareness about the people on your mailing list, but it will be well worth it in the end. 

Use Paragraphs to Break Up Large Text

It can be difficult for readers to process large chunks of text. Breaking things up into short paragraphs makes the body of the text more enticing, and it also makes it easier for viewers to skim through. This can secure a donation even if the reader does not commit to the entire article. Use headlines, paragraphs, and well-placed CTAs.

Demonstrate a Tangible Impact

As honestly and poignantly as possible, show your recipients the impact their donations can have on the communities you support - i.e., give them stats on how their donation will be used, for what exactly, and how it will impact the future of your organization’s beneficiaries. This can encourage them to contribute to your cause to a profound degree because it gives them a sense of security, a sense of your charity’s professionalism and authority. If you have a corporate sponsorship, it could be useful to briefly mention it. 

Pro Tip: Whenever you are writing a fundraising email, the most important thing to do is write with genuine intent. Write your emails as though you are sending them to a friend or a loved one. If done correctly, a fundraising email should read like a personal letter that has come directly from someone you know, or at least a real person. This is especially necessary when you are sending bulk emails, which can so easily feel manufactured and unfeeling. 


Call to Action

In the same breath that you convey your call to action, you should ask your supporters for a donation. Include any necessary links that will bring them to your donation page. If your CTA reads "Donate Now", do not have your almost-donor go through a laborious process to get there. Note that after you mention your CTA, you should not include much text below it. You want to focus your recipient’s attention on that final request for aid.  

Use One Single CTA

Avoid overwhelming your recipients with multiple CTAs. As we mentioned earlier, it is important to make the most of the attention your donors are giving the email. When you keep your message clear and simple, people will understand exactly what you are asking them to do. 



The design of your email will help you prioritize and section different information. Following a few basic organizational principles, you can ensure that the energy is strong within your information delivery tactics. 

Use Bolded Text

When there are key points that you cannot afford for the recipient to miss, put it in bold. This allows the viewer to easily read it if they are skimming. Avoid overusing this option, and only create bolded points where it is necessary. 

fundraising-email-designOliver is acting as the creative mastermind behind his fundraising email campaign!

Use Bullet Points

This can be particularly helpful when you are listing different options for paying donations. It can also be helpful in any other situation in which lists are useful, such as ways the donation is helping a community or ways for people to get further involved with the cause. 

Add Visual Content

Photos and videos can be incredibly useful methods of telling impactful stories. Showing real people in any of your marketing content can make it more relatable, so adding it into donation requests is very useful. Videos of past events, webinars or footage of the donations at work can be a great inclusion. Always use appropriate photos that are relevant to the context of the request. 


5 Highly Convincing Fundraising Email Examples

It can be helpful to review material from other nonprofits if you need a little inspiration. Here are a few examples and some thoughts to jog your creative spirits, but if you still need a little help, do a deeper dive online for more fundraising tips for nonprofits

#1: David Brower Center (source)


This example is a sleek and efficient example of virtual crowdfunding for nonprofits. It has been kept short and simple, with important information displayed in bold. It has powerful pictures that showcase what the organization does, and it has a clear donate button. They have timed their donation carefully, clearly stating that it is a year-end donation. They also clearly explain what the benefit will be: ensuring a dynamic ecosystem of activists. 

#2: Amnesty International (source)


This example is a wonderful example of the fact that your email length depends on your purposes. Amnesty International battles some intense issues, and they need all the support they can get. In this email, they utilize a story to convey the importance of fighting for freedom. They explain clearly what they will be doing with the donations, and they utilize bold lettering powerfully, following best practices.

#3: Charity: Water (source)


Another example of keeping things short and sweet, this example from Charity: Water explains clearly what your donations are supporting. They show the smiling face your money will fund, and they explain the importance of bringing these families access to clean water. Beautifully simple! 

#4: Young Lives vs Cancer (source)


This fundraising email tells a highly emotional story and utilizes powerful pictures with efficient segmentation. It showcases the reality of the issues that this organization battles, making it completely clear where your money is going. It uses an effective structure, strong CTAs, and clear links. It also, once again, utilizes the timing very carefully, tying it into the Christmas holiday. These are all genius strategies that are very helpful to the lives of people who receive funding after our virtual fundraising efforts. 

#5: St. Louis Area Foodbank (source)


Are you noticing a pattern? Aside from always including the logo, the most important factor is your expert delivery around what the funding is for. In this example, one quick paragraph tells a saddening story about the reality of poverty and hunger. It serves as a thank you note for anyone who already donated, and it provides clear links that guide supporters to a donation page. It uses heartfelt photos and inspires you to action with bright red colors. 


Final Thoughts

There are a lot of factors that play into the success of your fundraising plan. When it comes to your email fundraising appeal, following these practices should skyrocket your open rates and help you create powerful ones. Fundraising events and social media fundraising ideas will help you out with this, too! 

As you master the design and the layout of your fundraising emails, you are likely to see a difference in the success of your fundraising projects. When you keep things simple and personalized, and when you use solid CTAs, your viewers can easily process the information being presented to them. Whether it is for peer-to-peer fundraising, a silent auction, or a holiday fundraiser, these practices should serve you well in your ventures! 

Your cause is vital to the world, and your funding relies on the generosity of your audience. Do not hesitate to follow in the footsteps of these great examples. Experiment with different methods of outreach, and keep doing what works. All of your virtual fundraisers will be better off as a result!

Enjoyed the article? Download it to keep or share with others!



đź’ˇWhy send a fundraising email?

It’s a great way to spread awareness about the causes you’re working for. People are usually more willing to donate than we may think, they just need a little nudge! A fundraising email is a great way to let them know that they can help you help others, and they are highly effective. Find out more. 

🔑 What makes a good fundraising email?

It has a clear explanation of who you are and what the money will support. It also hooks the reader’s interest with a good story or compelling photos. It will have clear CTA’s and comprehensive information on how to make the donation, just to make things easy for the donor. It also will likely be sent out at a specific time, either around a certain holiday or at specific times in your fundraising journey. Find out more. 

đź“ť How long should a fundraising email be?

It depends on the situation. If you’re telling a story, some length is appropriate. If you’re just hosting a basic Christmas fundraiser for a classic cause, it’s okay to have the letter a little shorter. As long as the most important information is clear and concise and your CTA’s are well placed, you have some wiggle room as to the details. Find out more.  

The Holy Grail of Nonprofit Tips ✨
Get all of the information you need to efficiently manage your nonprofit with our monthly newsletter.