How to Write Fundraising Emails That Hook Readers

How to Write Fundraising Emails That Hook Readers

When I talk to other non-profit professionals about email fundraising, many of the questions I get asked boil down to how to capture and keep people’s attention. Really, this is the modern dilemma for anyone doing direct response marketing on any channel of the internet. Understanding how to write fundraising emails that hook readers can be a game changer.

As I’ve continued in my copywriting career, I look back at some basic and very useful advice my dad gave me in primary school about writing essays. Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, tell ‘em, then tell them again. I got this advice hammered into me for years and now looking closer at how I write fundraising emails, I see there’s still some applicability to this 🙂

In this article I’m going to show you my approach to narrative and storytelling in email that has helped me raise just shy of $1m in a year for one of my clients.

The First 120 to 150 Words of a Fundraising Email

I find this portion of fundraising emails to be a real exercise in concise yet powerful copy writing. And it typically takes me many drafts to get this right. But there’s a reason I spend so much time finessing this part of a fundraising emails. The first 120 to 150 words of a fundraising email are prime real estate. This is where you’re going to either capture attention or have people archive the email. You need to make a point quickly and transition into a strong ask. What I’ll cover in the rest of this article are the must-include elements of first 120-150 words of your fundraising email.

An Opening Paragraph That Hooks Readers

I keep paragraphs short in fundraising emails for optimal readability. Usually, this paragraph is anywhere from one to three sentences. I want people to know right away that’s going on and I get to that point quickly. In this paragraph, I’m trying to accomplish a couple of goals:

  • Tell readers what the problem/issue is
  • What the stakes are for the problem/issue

Here’s an example from a recent fundraising email I wrote:

Fall is always an extremely busy time for (org) because we are not only receiving lots of new grant applications, we are also renewing grants for special needs children who continue to need our help. And the demand this fall has become even greater because we have begun funding private autism assessments.

In this example, I tell readers that this is a time of year when the organization is usually receiving a lot of funding requests (a clear problem) and then I tell them why the organization will be receiving even more requests this year (raising the stakes). This coupling establishing a clear need that readers can help solve by donating.

If you want another example of a great opening paragraph, check out this video tutorial I have that breaks down a high performing fundraising email.

Here’s my pro-tip for you: review a few recent examples of your fundraising emails. Do you get to your most important point right away or do you bury the lead way down in the email? If you’re burying the best, most important information down in the body of the email try reorganizing the email and see how differently it reads.

Building the Narrative and Strengthen the Argument

Once we get past the opening paragraph, we likely have some word real estate left to build the narrative and strengthen the argument going into the first ask. In this section of the email, we want to paint more of picture of the problem, its nuances, and establish the solution (spoiler: that’s what your non-profit offers).

Here’s this part of the email from the example I shared above:

Fall is always an extremely busy time for (org) because we are not only receiving lots of new grant applications, we are also renewing grants for special needs children who continue to need our help. And the demand this fall has become even greater because we have begun funding private autism assessments.

The families who have submitted applications for an autism assessment have been waiting more than two years through the public system to be assessed for autism. Without an autism assessment and diagnosis, kids go without access to $22,000 a year in government funding and the extra support in the school system that is essential to their development.

I read a lot of fundraising emails every year and this is where I see a lot of them falling flat or flailing. For some organizations, this is the result of not wanting to be perceived as being to pushy or aggressive in asking for donation.  For others, it’s that the argument doesn’t fully thread the needle in a truly compelling way. Again, this is where time for editing is your friend!

Transition into the Fundraising Ask

In so many fundraising emails the call to action is simple and often abrupt. Donate now! Make your donation today! Click here to donate. Yes, these are all clear call to action but there needs to be a well thought out bridge to that call to action.

This bridge is your transition sentence that’s going to make it a no-brainer to donate. I love writing this part of the email. When I finally figure out that perfect transition sentence, I feel like I’ve hit a home run. The writing in the first part of the email flows and the pivot into the call to action is flawless.

Building on the example I used earlier, here’s what this looks like in action:

Fall is always an extremely busy time for (org) because we are not only receiving lots of new grant applications, we are also renewing grants for special needs children who continue to need our help. And the demand this fall has become even greater because we have begun funding private autism assessments.

The families who have submitted applications for an autism assessment have been waiting more than two years through the public system to be assessed for autism. Without an autism assessment and diagnosis, kids go without access to $22,000 a year in government funding and the extra support in the school system that is essential to their development.

Since we announced this new program, we’ve received hundreds of applications from families reaching out for this helping hand. And unfortunately, there’s been more families than we can currently fund.

As you can see in this example, that last sentence is the pivot into the ask. It demonstrates both a programmatic need and an organizational need for more donations. This is the kind of sentence you want right before your first ask.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, I spend a lot of time on the first 120 to 150 words of the email. I know this is what someone is most likely to read and where I’m most likely to lose readership. I hope this deep-dive into how to write fundraising emails. If you’re looking for more tips on how to write fundraising emails and the start-to-finish process, I highly recommend this article. 



Published at Mon, 11 Oct 2021 17:10:03 +0000
Originally Posted at: How to Write Fundraising Emails That Hook Readers

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