Fundraising Emails: 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts article from

Fundraising Emails: 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts for Successful Charity Fundraising

The art of designing and crafting compelling emails is a key player in successful charity fundraising. These emails are not just messages; they are personalised narratives that can either build enduring relationships with your donors or fizzle out if not executed effectively.

We use this post to list five important things for you to check when designing and sending successful fundraising emails and five pitfalls to avoid.

The Five Essential Dos in Fundraising Emails

1. Personalisation: A Personal Touch Goes a Long Way

Personalising your fundraising emails creates a sense of connection between the donor and your charity. A survey by the Aberdeen Group reveals that personalised emails can improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%. However, personalisation extends beyond using the donor’s name. It entails understanding the donor’s interests, previous donations, and customising the message to resonate with them.

Email companies like MailChimp, MailerLite and others provide you various personalisation options, even in automated emails. The set-up of each is different and the prices vary for the different players. Your team member who designs and sends the emails should spend some time familiarising themselves with how you can add more personalisation touches to increase open rates and even donation numbers.

2. Storytelling: The Power of Emotional Engagement

Narrating a compelling story in your fundraising email can evoke emotional responses, leading to higher engagement rates. A study by the Network for Good discovered that emotional narratives could increase donation amounts by up to 70%. But know this, you are competing with large ecommerce, entertainment and lifestyle businesses for the donor’s attention. As such, it is critical that you create a compelling narrative that underscores the impact of your donor’s contribution to your cause. You have only a few seconds to hold the email receiver’s attention. Make it count.

3. Clear and Compelling Call to Action (CTA)

A well-articulated CTA guides the donor towards the desired action, such as donating or sharing your cause with others. Ensure that the CTA is visible and unambiguous. A study by Unbounce reported that CTAs personalised to the user can increase the conversion rate by over 202%.

It is also important to keep more than one CTA in the email. You should place them at places within the email where the user is going to stop to look at an image or read a header or a tagline. The easier it is to find and click on the CTA button, the easier it will be for you to raise funds.

4. Streamlined Donation Process

A convoluted donation process can deter potential donors. Ensure that the donation process is straightforward, with a minimum number of steps. According to a study by Dunham+Company, donation pages that required fewer clicks to donate increased donations by up to 50%.

Ideally, it should not be more than 2-3 steps. The donor should be taken to the donation cause page first (tip: you can also put this in the email to reduce the steps), the payment page next and the confirmation page at the end. The payment page should have payment options that are easy to use for the donor. For instance, instead of having the donor put in bank account numbers or card numbers, a payment ID or QR code (such as the one used by India’s UPI payment system) will see much higher payment rates.  

5. Multichannel Approach

Integrating your email campaign with social media and other online platforms can significantly enhance donor engagement. A multichannel approach ensures consistent messaging across different platforms, increasing overall impact.

You need to have a clear strategy to do this. Knowing your target audience, their online behaviour, the social media channels they use, etc. will help you design email donation funnels that are more effective.

Five Don’ts or Potential Pitfalls to Avoid in Fundraising Emails

1. Overwhelming Frequency: Don’t Spam Your Donors

While regular communication is vital, overwhelming your donors with excessive emails can lead to disengagement. Campaign Monitor reports that nearly 46% of subscribers would unsubscribe from email lists due to excessive emails. Striking a balance is key to maintaining donor interest without causing fatigue.

Having said this, do remember that once a month is too less and once a day or two is too much. Once a week is a good rule of thumb to follow.

2. Lack of Transparency: Don’t Hide Information

Transparency fosters trust, a vital ingredient in the donor-organisation relationship. A BBB Wise Giving Alliance report indicates that 73% of donors consider transparency as a critical factor in their decision to donate. Ensure your emails clearly convey how the donations are utilised and their impact.

A good way to build rapport is to create compelling stories with narratives that strike a chord with the donor. Appealing to emotions is better than appealing to logic. Just think about it, most of us know that reaching for that bottle of cold drink is not good for our health but how many of us listen to our reason when we are tired or thirsty?

3. Fabricated Social Proof: Authenticity is Key

Incorporating testimonials and success stories can significantly influence potential donors. However, authenticity is crucial in maintaining credibility. Fabricated or exaggerated social proof can negatively impact your organisation’s reputation.

This may seem a strange thing to say but since we have been involved in online marketing and SEO for over a decade, we know this from experience. Most of the testimonials that you read on online platforms including business websites are fabricated. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that social proof is still important. The key is to obtain genuine feedback.

4. Absence of Gratitude: Don’t Forget to Thank Your Donors

Expressing gratitude not only acknowledges your donors’ contributions but also fosters a long-term relationship. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project found that a timely thank-you note increases the likelihood of a second donation by 39%.

Personalise this note and remind them of how they helped long after they have done so goes a very long way. An important aspect of this is to wish the donors on their birthdays. Not many businesses or charities do so but in an increasingly noisy and yet lonely world, people remember those who wished them on their birthdays. This is a connection superpower. Use it to your advantage.

5. Ignoring Mobile Optimisation: Don’t Lose Donors to Poor Design

With the majority of emails opened on mobile devices, it is crucial to optimise your emails for mobile viewing. An email that is not mobile-friendly can lead to a loss of potential donors. Adestra’s study found that around 70% of consumers delete emails immediately that don’t render well on a mobile device.

It is good practice to keep an eye on the designs of the promotional emails that land in your inbox, instead of simply sending them to Trash. Most of these businesses have experts design their emails – from the subject line to the address and disclaimer at the bottom. There are a lot of things to be learnt from these emails.

Winding it Up

A well-crafted fundraising email is a significant tool in your fundraising toolkit. It helps you build trust, generate awareness, and ultimately, increase donations for your charity. Following these simple tips, will help you and your team to be better equipped to design and create fundraising emails that resonate with your audience and drive them to click on the donate button.

For more information on how to raise funds for your charity, you may read our other posts on the topic of fundraising or donation for charities: