Email marketing

Charity Digital – Topics – How to structure a great fundraising email

Emails are an important part of your fundraising toolkit. They are a powerful and cost-effective way to drive donations. But getting your email opened, let alone read is no mean feat. So how can you structure one that won’t only get people reading, but also donating?

In 2022, Litmus found that people spent on average just nine seconds reading an email. Within that tiny timeframe you have to catch your reader’s attention, communicate a clear message, and get them to take action. That’s why structuring your fundraising email well is so important – you want to make it as easy as possible for your reader to navigate.

Besides that, nearly half of readers (on average 41%) will view your email on a mobile, so it needs to be visually clear on a smaller screen. Clearly structuring and formatting your email will help to engage your audience, limit your unsubscribes and ultimately increase the amount of money you receive.

To polish up your fundraising emails take a look at our ultimate guide to email marketing, or put some of the following ideas into action.

Start with a powerful subject line

Your subject line can make the difference between someone opening your email or instantly chucking it in their trash. According to OptinMonster47% of people open an email solely based on the subject line, so it needs to work hard.

  • Keep it short (subject lines often get shortened when viewed on mobile)
  • Use nine words or less than 60 characters
  • Get your readers interested. You could ask a question or use an impactful stat
  • Don’t use upper case or lots of punctuation and emojis. This can make your email look like spam
  • Convey a sense of urgency. For example, include the words ‘now’, ‘urgent’, or ‘today’

Experiment with subject lines. Test out which one gets the most click throughs for your charity. Your audience will be different from any other.

We have more suggestions here on how to improve your email click-through rate.

Write a first sentence that packs a punch

This needs to work as hard as your subject line. It’s the first thing someone will read if they click through. Not only that, your first sentence will likely appear as preview text before someone even opens your email.

Put the most important and attention-grabbing information up front. That could be highlighting the problem you’re fundraising for. A hard-hitting stat or emotive, personal quote could work here.

Break your email into clear sections

Rather than reading your email word for word, it’s much more likely that your reader will scroll through while deciding whether or not to hit delete. One big block of copy will put readers off. Breaking it into sections will make it far more appealing and increase the likelihood of people actually reading it. Around three to four sections is plenty.

Make each section no more than four sentences and focus on one clear point in each. Keeping your copy concise will make it far easier for readers to scan, if they’re not yet invested in reading it from start to finish.

Have concise – and interesting – subheads

Give each chunk of text a clear subheading – something that stands alone if the reader is skimming your email and it’s the only thing they read. The subheads should guide the reader through the copy. Before hitting send, ask yourself if the reader only reads the sub-heads, will they know what you’re asking them to do and why?

Have a single call to action

This means only asking your reader to do one thing after reading your email (ie donate). It can be tempting to also ask them to sign up for newsletters or support a campaign. But asking them to do more than one thing will muddy the waters.

That doesn’t mean you only ask once. You can ask the same thing a few times, phrased differently each time. Include one ask near the start of your email, in case the reader doesn’t scroll very far.

And make at least one ask leap out visually – in bold, a different color or standalone from the main paragraphs of copy. Crucially, make the process of donating super simple, ideally with a bold, clickable donate button (or two or three).

Use a PS line

This is another way to re-iterate your key call to action. It has the bonus of being right at the end of the email, meaning it will visually stand out from the rest of the copy. This is especially helpful if the reader has whizzed straight to the end of your message. People also remember information at the end of an email more than the information in the middle, so it can help make your message stick.

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