Email marketing is an essential tool for nonprofit fundraisers. It’s a fast, free way to keep in touch with donors and an increasingly valuable revenue stream. According to a nonprofit fundraising study by M+R Benchmarks, email messaging drove 13% of all online revenue in 2018. The same study noted that only 14% of emails are opened. The response rate to fundraising emails is less than 1%. Even though many emails go unopened and only 1% get the desired response, those donations make up a significant portion of income. 

Fundraising emails are important to the financial health of the organization and most nonprofits have room for improvement in this area. Here are four tips from fundraising experts to increase the effectiveness of fundraising email campaigns.



The purpose of your subject line is NOT to raise money or tell donors the date, time, and location of your upcoming fundraising. Your subject line has only one purpose and that is to sell opening your email. That’s it.

While viewing your emails donors unconsciously ask: What’s in it for me? Is this email worth my time? How urgent is this email?

Ask these questions about your subject lines:

Does it plant a question?

Does it tell half the story?

Does it tickle my FOMO (fear of missing out)?

Does it promise value in the message?

Does the subject line include my name?

Is it super short?

– John Haydon, Digital marketing expert, author of “Facebook for Dummies”




If the purpose of your email is to raise money, give recipients a single destination: your donation page. Certainly, include several links to the donation page in your email, but only to your donation page.

Avoid adding postscripts about clicking here to volunteer, signing up for a newsletter, RSVP’ing for a rally, or getting Mrs. Candidate’s great recipe for apple pie. Every opportunity you give someone not to donate is a contribution you’ve potentially lost.

-Jon Minjoe, Managing Partner at Beast Digital




When you sit down to write an email, it’s usually a simple process: you open your email application, hit “compose” type a recipient, subject line, body copy, and hit send. You don’t fire up an email template, change colors and design, fill in various content blocks and add a physical signature. So why do we do that with our email fundraising appeals?

CaringBridge sent a heavily branded and templated email fundraising appeal from their CEO. We hypothesized that stripping away the templated elements would increase the likelihood that the reader would take action. So we created a version that looked more like a personal email to determine a result. The [personal] treatment produced a significant lift in clickthrough rate, which led to more gifts. Why? Because people read and process emails differently when they believe it was actually written to them.

Jeff Giddens, President, Next After




Our connection and ability to relate to other human beings is part of what makes storytelling so powerful. Use your fundraising emails to tell detailed stories about the people your nonprofit has assisted or about the volunteers who have been impacted by your cause. Alternately, tell the story of your organization—how it came to be, who it was founded by and the community impact it’s made. An emotional story told well can ultimately be the factor that motivates donors to give to your cause.

Consider the below email from the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. By using the story of an injured dog found in a dire situation, the email pulls at reader’s heartstrings and allows them to form an emotional connection to a dog in need of a home.

Ronald Pruitt, President of 4aGoodcause



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