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All organizations know that email marketing is a critical component of donor engagement and gift solicitation.

Yet, it’s obvious that people are inundated with email: personal, work, and promotional messages drown inboxes daily. When your email does get opened and read, how should you structure your email to improve your chances of engaging the reader?

In this post, we’ll cover five essential elements of an effective fundraising email .

But first, a quick discussion about the importance of mobile.

More than half of emails are read on a mobile device. And some studies claim even more than that.

Let’s illustrate why mobile is so important.

Which email seems like it would be easier to read on a mobile device?

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The small text in the second image is barely legible, let alone clickable.

In a consumer survey by the Relevancy Group, respondents were asked to select their biggest mobile email turnoff. 32 percent of respondents said, “too small to read or interact with” and 21 percent answered, “not well-formatted for mobile phones.”

Write fundraising emails that are short, legible, and have one clear call to action that’s easy to tap.

Pro Tip: Remember that if a donor was compelled enough to click your donate button on their phone, they’re very interested in making a gift. Make sure your donation page is also mobile-optimized so they’re not met with a messy, unmanageable form.

Now, let’s look at 5 critical parts of any fundraising email:

classy fundraising email template

1. Branded header

Always include your organization’s logo in the header of the email. If the email is for a specific campaign, include your campaign hashtag.

Classy branded header

Your email should never be ambiguous. A fundraising email targets past donors, so good branding continuously builds familiarity and trust with supporters. Consistently brand your emails so that readers quickly recognize your organization and recall their positive association with your mission.

2. Eye-catching visual

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Images hit humans’ emotional center, can educate readers about a topic, and demonstrate impact to supporters. The majority of email readers spend only 0-15 seconds on an email and because we process images must faster than words, the visual element of a fundraising email is important.

Here are some ideas for an image you can incorporate into a fundraising email:

  • A constituent’s photo
  • A map
  • Part of an infographic
  • A photo of your field work
  • A photo of a recent fundraising event

Remember that the photo should match the theme and appeal of your email. If your fundraising email addresses an upcoming 5K, you might consider a photo of last years’ event.

If you’re running a specific campaign, try a constituent’s photo that directly addresses the program a donation benefits.

3. Appeal

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The fundraising appeal should be compelling, yet concise.

Answer these questions: What is the problem? What is the solution? How will a reader’s donation directly impact the solution?

Your work is important and the problems you address are often complex, but resist the urge to dive too deep. It’s never a bad thing to link out to in-depth articles, studies, or reports, but keep your email easy to digest.

Show readers that you value their time and support.

Donors have already demonstrated that they care about your cause, so give them the facts and proof they require to feel good about supporting your organization.

Think about the donation page you link out to. Make sure the messages are symmetrical. If you convince someone to take action in an email, there should be no surprises when they land on the donation form.

4. Call to action

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Your fundraising email should always include a call to action button.

The call to action (CTA) brings home the email’s goal. Make the copy specific and use action verbs to compel the reader. Answer the question: What is the next step you want the reader to take?

Since this post covers fundraising email, specifically, you’ll likely want the reader to Donate Now. In other cases though, your CTA might be to Read Now, Tweet Now, or Register Now.

Pro tip: Use only one call to action per fundraising email. These emails are very specific, so the more direct you can be, the better. Too many options might paralyze readers or lead them down a path that wasn’t your intended “next step.” If you want readers to donate, ask them to donate now.

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Your email footer doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but include your organization’s contact information, and an unsubscribe option. Here’s a nice example from Team Rubicon. They added their logo, which reinforces their brand and included contact information.

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The beautiful thing about these six essential elements? You don’t need fancy designers or code skills to any of it! When it comes to fundraising emails, simplicity rules. Now go out there and use the essentials to craft messages that compel readers to donate.

Want a more in-depth look at crafting A+ emails for your organization? Watch and download the slides to a full webinar of best practices.