Writing Techniques for Non-Profit Email Fundraising

Good non-profit fundraising emails have five characteristics.

  1. They are personal. Speak directly to the audience using “you” statements instead of the less personal “we” or, even worse, “one.” You are more likely to engage your readers if they connect to you and believe you know and understand them. This, of course, means you understand who your audience is, what inspires and motivates them, and what causes them to take action.
  2. They engage the reader’s heart. People give to causes and non-profits that fulfill an emotional need in their own lives. Your readers gave you their email address because they thought your non-profit is their path to making a difference in someone’s life or in some challenge. You need to tell them through a short, heartfelt, and true story of one specific person (or thing or animal) your non-profit has helped and how. This story needs to be told in no more than one or two short but effective paragraphs.
  3. They create urgency. What will happen if the reader doesn’t give a donation as a result of this email? Will people like the one described above continue to suffer? Will dogs like the one described above continue to be abused or homeless? Your reader needs to visualize the results of both helping and not helping. Appeal to your readers’ senses: smell, touch, taste, sound, sight. And don’t overstate the urgency or consequences; they’ll see right through that.
  4. They include a clear call to action. Your readers need to know specifically what you want them to do. Should they give $50 now? Should they sign a petition now or take a survey? Use action words to describe the action and what’s in it for them. Tell them exactly what they need to do to take this action (e.g., click here). Be careful. Words like “click here” or “go here” could get your email flagged as spam. It is best to put these kinds of words in graphic buttons that link to the place where the reader can take the specific action you’re requesting.
  5. They communicate value. If there is a premium, they clearly describe the value and how the reader can get that premium. If their gift of $50 will get them a book, what will they learn from this book? It isn’t necessary to state the monetary value of the item. What motivates people is what they will learn, discover, experience, etc.

Remember, the things that inspire you to work at or own your non-profit are probably the same things that inspire the people who gave you their email addresses. 

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