Fundraising E-mail Do’s and Don’ts

by The Fundraising Authority

While fundraising over the Internet is one of the hottest modern trends for non-profit organizations of all sizes, many groups that have enthusiastically embraced the web have been wary of raising money through e-mail.  If you don’t add fundraising e-mail to your Internet mix, you are missing out on truly maximizing your online giving program.  Today, we present some important do’s and don’ts when sending out fundraising e-mail:

1.  DO Keep it Short!

While the common wisdom for regular (snail-mail) fundraising letters is that they should be relatively long, the same is not true for fundraising e-mails.  People don’t like reading long wordy e-mails.  Keep your e-mail solicitations short and to the point.  Include enough information for people to make a decision, then provide links for them to either make a donation or get more information from your website.

2.  DON’T Ask for Large Gifts

Very few large gifts are given in response to a fundraising e-mail (at least not without further follow-up).  Use e-mail solicitations to ask for small or mid-level gifts from your list.

3.  DO Tie it to Something Tangible

One of the best tactics for getting people to donate online through an e-mail letter is to tie your ask to something tangible.  People like to know where their money is going, and this is doubly true on an impersonal medium like e-mail.  Tying your ask to something tangible is a great way to let people know how their money will be spent.  For example, you might ask for $25 to buy school supplies for one student (with the option to sponsor ten students for $250) or for $32 to pay for 20 hot meals for the homeless.  You get the idea…

4.  DON’T Spam

You’re only sending fundraising e-mail out to your own list… right?  Never send out unsolicited (spam) e-mails.  They don’t work, and only make people mad.  Start a list of all of your supporters and donors.  Send them regular e-mail updates and newsletters.  Then, from time to time, throw in an ask.

5.  DO Include Offline Contact Information

Some people from your list may want to contact you directly for more information, or to make a larger gift.  Make sure they have a way to get in touch with you.  Include a link to your website and your organization’s phone number in every fundraising e-mail you send out.

There you have it – five quick ways to make sure your fundraising-emails are used to maximum effect.  Remember that e-mail solicitations should not be the only e-mail contact you have with your donors.  Keep them informed and up-to-date, stay in touch with them, and when you need their help (or money), ask for it.


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John July 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Great ideas. I particularly like the one about keeping the emails short and to the point. If they are too long people will set them to the side to deal with later (then the later will never happen).

Mike July 24, 2014 at 12:23 pm

In your article “Fundraising E-mail Do’s and Don’ts”, you say that we should only send emails to our own list. But what if we don’t have a list? We were thinking about renting a list, but that wouldn’t be “our list”. So should we scrap the email fundraising idea or go with the rented list?

Joe Garecht July 25, 2014 at 10:23 am


I’d advise against using the rented e-mail list. I would put your focus on individual fundraising and building relationships with donors through referrals from your board, events you are attending, etc. E-mails sent to rented e-mail lists are (a) usually perceived as SPAM by the recipients, (b) a hard way to raise money and get positive ROI if you don’t have the budget for doing lots of small test e-mails, making changes based on the metrics, etc., and (c) not a great way to build long-term fundraising success.


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