More than ever, nonprofit organizations are actively collecting email addresses from their stakeholders. This allows nonprofits to share information with their donors, volunteers, beneficiaries and community members – all without the time and expense of preparing a formal mailing.
Nonprofit fundraisers should be careful, however, to adjust the content of fundraising appeal letters when transmitted by email.
Email Fundraising Tip: Focus on Subject Line
“Your subject line is the equivalent of the carrier envelope in direct mail – it is the single most important element of the mailing because it is what will convince the recipient to open the email,” writes Charlotte Rains Dixon in The Complete Guide to Writing Fundraising Letters for Nonprofit Organizations (2008).
Don’t try to disguise the content of the email. People opening a message that is clearly marked as a request for support are more likely to actually make a donation.
Consider a variation of these sample subject lines:
- “Donate Today to Help (beneficiaries)”
- “Help (organization) to (organization’s work) With Your Donation”
- “With Your Help, (organization) Will (organization’s work)”
Don’t Bury the Ask in Online Fundraising Appeals
A great feature of email appeal letters is the ability to embed a link into the copy so that donors can click through to the nonprofit’s online donation site to immediately make a gift. Nonprofit fundraisers should emphasize this feature by making a simple and direct request near the top of the email. Make the “ask” its own paragraph.
Sample ask paragraphs:
- “Won’t you join me today with your gift to (organization/work)?”
- “Please give today to help (beneficiaries)”
- “Your donation will go to work immediately.”
Keep Email Fundraising Appeals Short and Sweet
While hard copy fundraising appeal letters often fill two pages or more, email appeals should be much shorter.
Consider this sample format:
- Salutation: “Dear (first name)”
- One or two paragraphs
- Ask paragraph
- Two short paragraphs
- Ask paragraph
- Closing paragraph
- Signature (with name)
- PS: Reiteration of ask
- Footer with donation button
A shorter letter should not mean leaving out all of the elements of a good printed appeal letter – it should make the case for support by clearly stating the need, connecting the reader with the organization and the writer, and making a direct ask.
For those donors making a gift in response to an email appeal, a prompt and personalized thank you letter should acknowledge donations. Email appeal recipients not responding can be resolicited by email within two weeks of the original appeal. The second appeal should have a different subject line, but can use the text from the original appeal.
With careful editing of more traditional fundraising appeal letters, nonprofit organizations can successfully use email to build relationships with donors and increase gifts.