How to write fundraising emails that work

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be bringing you a series of posts on fundraising and running for charity.  I didn’t find a ton of resources online to help me, so I want to share with you what I’ve learned as I raised $17k for Fred’s Team to run the NYC Marathon.  Today’s post will help you write fundraising emails.

Be sure to check out the other posts in this series as I publish them, and sign up at the bottom of this post for my free fundraising plan workbook!

6 steps to building a fundraising plan

– How to write fundraising emails that work

– 5 tips for planning fundraising events

Tips on how to write fundraising emails for charity running for charity

Keep it personal

It can be so tempting, but shy away from mass emails.  You know, the kind where you “select all” in your contacts and send one note to everyone.  Yes, you may get some donations that way, but you’ll get more if you send individual notes.

When I first started fundraising, I did a test this way.  I sent a mass email to 50 people, and 50 individual emails to others.  I got a 40% donation rate on the individual emails, and only a 15% donation rate on the mass emails.

You can have a “copy and paste” email, but personalize the first 2 or 3 sentences to that person. Also consider personalizing the subject line. More on that at the end of this post.

Keep it concise

Think about when and where people read emails – typically on their phone on the go.  As such, don’t send a novel! It is SO TEMPTING to want to overload people with info so they really understand why they should donate.  Don’t do it.  Instead, keep it to 2-3 short paragraphs (3-4 sentences each) and link to more info.

Make sure you answer these three questions:

  • Why do you care?
  • Why should they care?
  • What will their donation do?
How to write #fundraising emails that work - perfect if running for charity! #runchat Click To Tweet

Follow up

This is where I think people start feeling uncomfortable with fundraising…following up! It was my experience that it took 1 or sometimes 2 follow ups to get that donation.  In the digital age, your contact is likely reading your note as soon as it comes in, but they may not be able to click over and donate in that exact moment.  I got so many notes back to my follow up emails that said something like “thank you for the reminder, I meant to do this last week!”.

What time is the right amount of time to follow back up? It depends on how much time you have before your goal.  If you are tight on time, wait at least 2 weeks.  This will also ensure another payday has passed.  If you have a little more time, around a month is a good follow up point.

Your follow up should be super short, and try to include a new “why” in your note.  You’ve already introduced your contact to your cause, so no need to include a lot of details.

The winning formula

This year, I sent nearly a thousand emails in my fundraising! I experimented with different formats, and found that some combination of the below worked:

  • Paragraph 1: make these sentences customized to the contact, and passively reacquaint them to how you know them.  This is helpful for acquaintances and not necessarily close friends.  For example:
    • “Hey Joe! How have you been since our grad school days? Hard to believe it’s been two years already.  I saw your latest family photos you posted, the photographer did a great job capturing the spirit of your kiddos!”
  • Paragraph 2: A couple of sentences about what you’re doing and why.  Keep it concise.  This can be a copy and paste from a template:
    • “This coming November, I’m running the NYC Marathon with Fred’s Team to support lifesaving cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). I’m committed to training and raising as much money as I can!  We all know someone that has been impacted by cancer, and unfortunately several friends/coworkers of mine are dealing with this awful disease right now.  This is my way of making a difference.”
  • Paragraph 3: Ask for their help – this is your call to action.  It can also be a copy and paste from a template:
    • “So now we get to the part where I ask for your help.  I’ve decided to go big with my goal and am trying to raise $10,000…it’s the overachiever in me. 🙂  Will you consider making a donation to my fundraising?

      The button below takes you to my fundraising page, where you can make a 100% tax-deductible donation.  No amount, even $5, is too small.  For every donation of at least $100 I receive, I will be hand-crocheting a cap to donate to a local cancer patient.”

Finish off the email thanking them for their consideration, and then include a final link to donate.

These tips for writing #fundraising emails when running for charity are so helpful! #runchat Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

A few other tips that I found worked for me:

  • Ask for specific amounts – I wrote in my email that for every $100 donation I received, I’d be crocheting and donating a hat to a cancer patient.  There are many ways you can include a specific amount, but give a suggestion to your contact.
  • Link to your page several times – I linked a few times in the email so it’s very easy for your contact to click over.
  • Consider including other relevant materials – on my follow up emails, I sometimes included fact sheets as to what work MSK does with the funds donated.  If you have any materials like that, it could be helpful to make your case.  Also consider photos, etc.
  • Don’t forget the thank you note!! I made sure to send a thank you note for each donation.
  • If your charity has a web-based platform to send emails, use it.  The emails look more professional and you can often track if someone has opened an email or not.  If someone did not open the original or follow up email, I would email them directly from my gmail to be sure they saw my note.

I hope these tips are helpful for you! If you have something that worked well for you (or that didn’t!) please add your tip below in the comments.  Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list to get your free fundraising workbook, and more tips delivered to your email box.

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