What You Need to Know About Email Fundraising

Posted: Sep 07th, 2017 Updated: Dec 14, 2020

An estimated 205 billion emails are sent every day, and the tool remains one of the most successful and important ways companies produce sales and non-profits and political campaign raise money. No matter the size of your list or even if you are just emailing your friends and family, online fundraising is a core piece of any successful fundraising campaign.

Here are the basics that you need to know about email fundraising.


Good Subject Lines

Maui needs his fish hook and digital fundraisers need www.subjectline.com. (Yep, we made a Moana reference, and it was worth it.)

A clever, well-crafted subject line can make or break a fundraising email. We get tons of email, and nearly 33% of your audience will decide to open or not open your email based on the subject line alone.

Strong subject lines are short, with best results between 15 and 35 characters. That’s right...15 characters. The maximum length of a subject line should be no longer than 50 characters.

Subject lines can also ask questions, include numbers, and/or are personalized for the audience through segmentation, a recent action the reader may have taken, or including the reader's name in the subject line.

We know that it is easier to state what makes a good subject line in a blog than it is to craft one. Our recommendation is to look into www.subjectline.com. While it is just a tool and should not be taken as the word of Odin, it will give you some options and feedback as you craft your next amazing email subject line.



Create urgency by connecting the email to a current event or activity

Superheroes don’t get off the couch unless the world is about to end. The same holds true for your donors.

Online fundraising is impulsive. Donors need to be convinced they need to take action right away and not let your fundraising email slide into the inbox abyss. This is why breaking news brings about a slew of fundraising emails from other organizations. But you don’t always need a real-world crisis to raise money through email.

Good fundraisers create a sense of urgency internally by emphasizing fundraising deadlines and goals, like the end of the month or quarter. They also leverage a matching donation from a major donor or explain that you have a goal of reaching a certain number of new donors each month. You can also link your fundraising emails to activities of your organization - like the need to buy volunteer supplies, purchase brochures and outreach materials, or even launch your next program or project.

In the end, urgency pushes the donor to give and give right away. It also helps the donor understand how they can have an impact and support the great work you are doing every day. Creating this urgency is a must for every fundraising email.


One Message

Keep it to one Batsignal - a single, clear and concise call to action.

There should only be one goal of a fundraising email - raise money. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a donate button in your newsletters and email updates, but those have other purposes and are not “fundraising” emails.

In a fundraising email, multi signals, links, and calls to action confuse the reader and divert attention away from where you want it - your donation page. Yes, you may have an incredible news story that talks about the success of your organization, but if your donor clicks on that link, they will read the story and may forget to go back and donate.

For maximum impact and to raise the most dollars, only link to your donation page in a fundraising email. Even better, link multiple times with a mix between text links and buttons or images. If there is a really important news story or article you’d like to share, include it in the thank you to the donor. That way they are still able to get the content, but it does not impact your fundraising.


Keep it Short

No one reads every word of a fundraising email.

People get emails on their phones, at work, or when they are generally engaging in another activity. As a result, they need to be short and concise to capture the reader's attention and get them to spend a few minutes out of the donor’s precious time to put their credit card information into your donation page.

While there is no hard and fast rule about how long an email should be, research suggests 150 - 300 words, and no longer than 500 words, hits the sweet spot. In general, people read around 200 words per minute, so if your email is 150 to 500 words, you’re asking your potential donor to spend one to three minutes, plus the time it takes to complete the donation, on your fundraising email. This may not seem like a lot, but monitor yourself and take note of how many emails from others you spend five or ten minutes reading and thinking through.



Online fundraising is a drum beat, not a cymbal crash.

Lots of people ask about how often you should send fundraising emails. Send too much and you risk losing engagement among your readers. Send too little and people forget who you are and you miss opportunities. And of course, we all have been on the dreaded end of a major political campaign receiving the countless barrage of emails that make you wish you were being pummeled by the Hulk.

The issue with email is the goal is to have your email at the top of the inbox when your reader is in a place to read it and take action. This means you need to be sending frequently enough that you are breaking through the noise, but no so frequently that they just skip over your email. While there is no hard and fast rule, the best advice we at FundHero have received is to send emails one to four times a month on a somewhat consistent schedule so your readers begin to expect your email.

Finally, remember that good content is critical for your emails. No matter what the frequency of your email sends are, if you have not taken the time to draft good, quality, interesting, and relevant content for your reader, they are unlikely to open or read your emails.


As always, these recommendations should be taken as a guide to help you craft better and more successful fundraising campaigns. There are always exceptions to the rule and the real world is messy, so always test and play with your list and figure out what works best for your audience and your fundraising goals.


Looking for some email templates to get you started? Check out this post to download email templates!

Matt Lyon

Matt has over 12 years of political fundraising experience. Matt’s experience includes overseeing up to fourteen staff members, administering budgets exceeding $1.1 million annually, directing million dollar paid media programs, raising over $5 million for various causes and organizations, and developing and implementing communications strategies that led to dozens of stories in local and national outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post. Matt is an experienced and campaign veteran always willing to help the next candidate make a difference.