Robly Logo


Asking for donations might seem like a daunting and intimidating task. What if donors don’t read your email? How will you encourage the public to support your mission?

Don’t let the fear of asking for donations stop you from sending appeal emails! There are plenty of ways you can improve the quality of your emails, engage your supporters, and generate more funds for your cause.

If you’re interested in learning how to ask for donations via email, we’ll cover 6 essential tips to help you get started:

  1. Make your message inviting.
  2. Clearly provide some ways to give.
  3. Be direct when asking for donations.
  4. Let donors know how you’ll use the money.
  5. Personalize your email solicitations.
  6. Follow up and say thank you.

You’ve already worked hard to provide ways for your supporters to donate to your cause online, so now it’s time to remind them of your mission and make sure they know the best ways to make a donation!


1. Make your message inviting.

Let’s face it: when we scroll through our inbox, a new email with an unfamiliar sender or a confusing subject line is unlikely to catch our sustained attention. Most of us would probably just delete it without giving it a second thought.

Don’t let this happen to your nonprofit’s donation appeal emails! Make your emails inviting to engage with your recipients in organic ways.

You can greatly boost your email open rates by following a handful of simple best practices. Most importantly, always optimize your subject lines to adhere to a number of key qualities. Good subject lines (and especially for donation appeal emails) should be:

  • Informative. Clearly and briefly explain your email’s purpose.
  • Straightforward. Get right to the point, and don’t use gimmicks to draw attention.
  • Truthful. Never mislead recipients about the content of the email.

Your recipients have already expressed interest in your work in one way or another; that’s why you have their contact information, after all. Show your respect and gratitude for their interest by never misleading them or wasting their time with poor subject lines.

Similarly, since the average web user is bombarded with spam emails every day, receiving a message from a completely unfamiliar name will not only draw suspicion, it might get your email immediately deleted.

Your recipients are much more likely to engage with a message from your nonprofit than with an email from a random name, even if it’s a staff member or your executive director.


2. Clearly provide some ways to give.

That’s the whole purpose of your email campaign, right?

A surprising number of nonprofit organizations neglect to provide clearly labeled or actionable steps to immediately make a donation or check out other ways to do so.

On every email, be sure to include a link to your ways to give page in addition to a direct link to your donation form.

It’s especially important for donation appeal emails that you fully optimize your donation forms for speed and ease of use. Customizable donation forms should be intuitive and contain only the bare minimum of necessary fields for donors to complete.

In addition to your ways to give page and your donation form, you might want to include some other important online donation tools right on your emails, like:

  • A matching gift eligibility search tool.
  • Links to information about volunteer engagement and registration.
  • Other donation methods, like text-to-give.
  • Links to your other online campaigns, like crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising.

Remember, don’t overload your donation appeal emails with too many links or widgets, but always provide some clearly labeled ways to give. Encourage interested email recipients to act immediately rather than forcing them to figure out the donation process on their own!


3. Be direct when asking for donations.

Make your donation appeals as straightforward as you possibly can.

It’s certainly important to provide context and tell the story of your organization’s work, but when it comes time to make the main pitch, donors will always prefer an appeal that is straightforward over one that is convoluted or manipulative.

For instance, never hide a major donation appeal in an email that’s about something completely different, like a newsletter or project update. It’s a great idea to include a donation form link or button in these emails, but for email fundraising campaigns, it’s best to focus entirely on the task at hand.

Email fundraising campaigns are often quite effective by remaining focused and targeting specific audiences.

Not only is audience and donor segmentation a popular trend in email marketing, it’s also simply a smart practice for any organization trying to raise awareness or reach its constituents. For instance, you could segment your mailing list by these categories:

  • All past online donors.
  • Mid-sized and major donors.
  • Past and current volunteers.
  • Online fundraising campaign donors or participants.
  • Community event attendees.

Then, tailor your emails to each category. What drew each group to your organization in the first place, and why do they enjoy engaging with your work? Use these insights to find the most effective and straightforward ways to appeal to each group of supporters.


4. Let donors know how you’ll use the money.

There are a number of best practices that you should always follow when promoting your campaigns.  When it comes to direct donation appeals (through any medium, not just email), ethical practices are also best practices.

This means that you should always prioritize transparency and forthrightness in your donation appeal emails.

Your organization would certainly never misuse its donated funds, but reassuring your donors of your value as a nonprofit organization can go a long way in a time when many for-profit businesses market themselves as philanthropic actors without actually contributing much real philanthropy.

Your donation appeal emails are the perfect place to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, and show your supporters that your nonprofit goals are achievable and meaningful.

Describe the project that you need donated funds to complete, then include some images or links to media that:

  • Illustrates your cause and the people it affects.
  • Explains your exact project and goals.
  • Highlights stakeholder feedback from past engagements.
  • Provides background and context on your issues.

Be completely forthright with your goals and your need for donations, and your supporters will recognize you as a valuable member of both their community and the nonprofit world.


5. Personalize your email solicitations.

While the idea of completely personalizing your email solicitations might at first glance seem an unreasonable goal, segmenting your donor list and communication information will make the process incredibly simple. Email marketing software can take this data and create fully personalized automated email messages for each recipient in each donor category!

Plus, providing some level of personalization to your email solicitations can provide a major boost to your click-through rates and completed donations.

By keeping your messages and appeals relevant to the ways that your recipients have already engaged with you, you can ensure that they’ll be more likely to take note of your email in their inbox.

If you use automated tools to send appeal messages to large segments of your mailing list, make sure that your CRM data can be imported into the emails. Or your online donation platform can automatically create new donor profiles for you.6 Addressing your email appeals to your supporter’s name rather than just their email address can make a great impression.

Additionally, if you’re looking to build relationships with more major prospects, it might be worth your time to invest a little extra effort into personalizing those solicitations.

Use some prospect research resources to find the data that will allow you to better target your appeals, like:

  • Philanthropic history.
  • Professional network.
  • Relationships with other nonprofits.
  • Real estate and political contributions records.

This data will guide your solicitation strategy when drafting donation email appeals to major prospects with whom you hope to build important relationships.


6. Follow up and say thank you.

After an email donation appeal campaign, it’s important to follow up, especially with the recipients who took the time to donate to your organization.

Be sure that you have the structures in place to import donation updates from your donation platform to your CRM and email automation software in order to efficiently contact those who donated as a result of your emails.

Aside from the fact that a warm thank you is a polite next step, it’s also a fantastic way to start building relationships with your new donors and reaffirm your gratitude to your existing ones.

Think of some ways to follow up with your donors and email recipients that can help build your relationships. Start by:

  • Including a warm thank you message on your donation confirmation emails.
  • Sending a separate email to thank new donors and invite them to become members
  • Inviting all recent donors to your upcoming fundraising events.
  • Sending a personal letter to significant donors or new prospects.

Creating an organic connection with your donors is the key to retaining their continued support. If you need a refresher on some of the best ways to format your donor communications, there are plenty of fundraising letter templates available on the web.

Keep your entire email exchange personable to maximize its impact and reach!

Email can be an extremely effective donation appeal medium for the nonprofit willing to take the time to optimize their every element. Done the right way, your email campaign can go a long way to help build your relationship with your base of support while also boosting your donations.

Andrew Berry is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year. In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.

Table of Contents

Start a free trial

See why thousands of small businesses, charities and non-profits trust Robly with their email marketing needs.