Steal this E-Mail! A Sample Year-End Fundraising E-Mail for Your Non-Profit


It’s almost the year-end giving season, and most non-profits I know are getting ready to reach out to their donors to ask for one more donation before the end of the year. As well they should… a very high percentage of all charitable gifts are made during the year-end fundraising cycle.

If you want to know how to run an amazing year-end fundraising campaign (both online and offline) for your organization, check out our three part series How to Do Year-End Fundraising the Right Way. The articles in that (free) series present a clear, step-by-step plan you can use to raise more money during the final weeks of the year.

Today, I want to present a sample year-end fundraising e-mail for a fictional non-profit organization. Lots of fundraisers ask me what a great year-end e-mail appeal should look like — well, here it is. This sample e-mail is based on several very successful year-end e-mails I have used for real-world organizations in the past, but the names and identifying information have all been changed.

The Best Short Cut To Write Great Fundraising, Fast

It used to be that we looked for inspiration in fundraising books full of sample letters. Then the internet developed and we all started searching for great templates and samples. Times change and today AI writing tools, especially, make templates and samples obsolete. An hour with and you can easily write 4-5 solid drafts that you can use for a full campaign.

It is important to know the qualities of a good appeal, so the rest of this article is worth the read. But, you are probably here because you want to sample or template and you should know about the newest, better option.

Before We Get to the E-Mail, Remember…

It’s very important to remember that while e-mail fundraising appeals share many similarities with their snail mail cousins, they are also different in many ways.

The primary difference between offline fundraising letters and e-mail fundraising letters is length. For many organizations, long (or super-long) snail-mail fundraising letters work. Some organizations send 3, 4, or even 5 page fundraising letters and know that their constituencies appreciate the length because they make money with these letters.

The rule online is less, less, less. I have never seen an e-mail fundraising letter that was the equivalent of a 4 page offline letter get read. When writing online fundraising e-mails, keep it relatively short – I would suggest trying to keep your e-mail asks to 400 words or less. Anything more than that, and people simply won’t want to read it. If necessary, you can include links to your website to explain additional information, but for the actual e-mail, keep it short and to the point.

For more information on how to write great fundraising e-mails, read How to Write Fundraising E-Mails that Get Results.

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The Background Behind the Letter

As I mentioned above, this letter is an amalgamation of several super-successful year-end fundraising e-mails I have written for real-life non-profits in the past. For the purposes of this sample appeal, though, we are using a fictional non-profit. Assume this e-mail is being sent by the following organization:

  • A homeless shelter in a major US city that serves 1,000s of people per year
  • The non-profit has a large donor file and e-mail list
  • The organization regularly communicates with its donors through both snail mail and e-mail

Like most year-end fundraising letters, this e-mail is a housefile appeal, meaning it is only being sent to those who have donated to the organization in the past or who have volunteered, attended an event, or otherwise indicated their interest in and support of our efforts.

If your non-profit doesn’t look anything like our fictional organization, that’s ok… this type of fundraising e-mail should work for most non-profits. Of course, you don’t want to use this e-mail exactly. Instead, use it to get ideas, then add in some of your own as well as information about your own organization. If you do use this e-mail for ideas, be sure to send me an e-mail and let me know how it goes!

Here it Is… The E-Mail

Dear Joe:

Thanks to you 2,349 men, women and children had a warm place to stay and a hot meal to eat this year. On behalf of them, thank you for saving their lives and their dignity.

I recently helped Amanda, a single mother of three children, move into a new apartment. She lived with her children at our shelter for 7 weeks. During that time she was able to get her children back into school, find a job, and save up for her first month’s rent. Without your help, Amanda and her children would still be out on the street. Today, they are safe, warm and self-sufficient.

Every day, your support makes stories like Amanda’s possible.

Today, we’re launching our 2015 Year-End Campaign. Our goal is to help an additional 500 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters come in from the cold and find a way to get their lives back on track. You see, even though we helped over 2,300 people last year, there are still almost 1,000 homeless on our streets that we couldn’t help, because we don’t have the resources to do so.

That’s why our goal for this campaign is to raise $100,000 by December 31st. If we raise that amount, we’ll be able to provide food, shelter and clothing for 500 more people this year than last year. Joe, we need your help to make it happen.

Would you be willing to make a special year-end donation of $50, $100 or whatever you can afford to help us meet our goal and bring 500 more people in from the cold?

We simply can’t do it without you. Your support will make a real, lasting impact in the lives of those who are still in need.

Please, click here to make your donation now. The lives of hundreds of others like Amanda are at stake.

Thank you for your continued support and friendship.

With gratitude,

Fred Mertz
Executive Director
The Metropolitan Shelter

P.S. Today, we launched our 2015 Year-End Campaign. Our goal is to raise $100,000 to help an additional 500 people get off the streets. We can’t do it without your help. Will you make a gift of $50, $100 or whatever you can afford to help us meet this goal? Click here to make your donation now!

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