The 5 Essential Elements All Great Fundraising Emails Include (Updated August 2021)

February 1, 2019
3 minutes

How many emails landed in your inbox this morning? Like, a lot right? Just like you, your donors get dozens of emails every day. So how do you help donors go from clicking that delete button on your nonprofit's emails to opening them up with glee and donating to your cause? It all comes down to how much you can entice them through compelling copy.

Your copy, AKA the words and the tone you use to tell your story, is the voice that donors hear and interact with when they read your emails. If it’s not engaging, interesting, and clear, chances are they’re gonna click the archive button faster than you can say, “Good golly, Miss Molly!” Ugh, the woes of email fundraising are real and we feel you.

Let’s take your fundraising emails from Yawnville to Wowtown! The best nonprofit fundraising emails include these five essential elements, so get ready for a play-by-play on how to rock each one of them.

Captivating subject line

The first step to a better fundraising email is a captivating subject line. No, we’re not talking click-bait. We’re talking about genuinely compelling writing that stands out in someone’s inbox.

Strong subject lines are generally just vague enough to be interesting. It can be a tough balance to strike, but not impossible. Hubspot's got some great examples of email subject lines that spark action.

Side note: there are many other factors that influence deliverability and open rates, such as whether or not your organization has a track record (according to email providers) of sending interesting or valuable emails to subscribers in the past, so improving your open rates can be a long game.

4x4 sheet of multiple teal letterheads with one yellow letterhead standing out in the middle.

Get to the point, like fast

Here’s a fun way to test your last fundraising email. Put the following phrase in front of the first sentence: “Let me get straight to the point. . .”


Ensuring your key message is up front is essential in fundraising emails because you only have a few seconds to catch your readers’ attention and their dollars.

To help with this, you’ll want to provide your reader with key information they need to know in the first 150 to 200 characters. That’s the amount of word real estate you have before you make the first ask.

How much is 200 characters? Here's an example of 197 characters:

Theo is $50 away from a new life. Your donation will immediately be directed to getting him to safety, providing him with shelter, and giving him the opportunity to live freely. Donate to Theo now!

Explain how donating makes a difference

One of the cardinal mistakes of fundraising emails is not explaining to donors how donating actually makes a difference. What usually happens is that the email will say something like, “Donate today to change lives.” Or, “Donate now to make an impact on our community.”

But here’s the thing, fearless fundraiser, you need to tell donors how lives are actually changed or how that impact happens with stats and stories. You don't need to bore your donors with technical or academic explanations (although hard data is powerful with the right delivery). It could just be a single sentence that neatly summarizes the “how.” Easy peasy. See the example above!

The perfect call to action (CTA)

How many fundraising emails do you see each year where the call to action is “donate now?” A bunch. And sure, that is what we want donors to do, but it’s not the best way to actually get more donations.

The best CTAs follows this formula: specific, tangible, and deadline-driven.

Why these three things? Together, they tell donors what they are actually donating to and create a sense of urgency.

Make your CTA highly visible

Most email is read on mobile these days, but those tiny screens? Not the best if you're trying to make your CTA stand out. Your awesome call to action needs to be highly visible and you can make it so one of two ways.

Using one or both of these methods will help increase click-through rates.

Beyond these five elements, A/B testing can help you continuously improve your results. And in the ever-changing landscape of email marketing, it’s important to keep your ear to the ground for the latest tips and tricks of the trade. If you want even more inspo, check out sites like,, and to see what other organizations are doing to stand out.

Time to whip your nonprofit fundraising emails into shape and get that dough!

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