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Pack Your Fundraising Emails With Action

Many of us learned how to structure a sentence way back in elementary school. Sometimes a simple refresher can help get you back to the basics. The same could be said of something as simple as a fundraising email.

Samuel Vilchez Santiago, manager, Movement, Issues, and Charitable Organizations (MICO), and Dan Michaels, associate, MICO, at ActBlue, presented a workshop titled “Digital Fundraising 101: Building People Power with Small-Dollar Donors” during Upswell, a conference by Independent Sector.

Fundraising emails should motivate people to action and make supporters feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. It’s also important to use inclusive and empowering language. For example, avoid gendered language, use simple and larger text, and make it easy to give and sign up.

In structuring a fundraising email, the subject line should encourage supporters to open the email and take action. It also should include a hook that draws in supporters, such as a line or two that will capture supporters. There also should be an explainer, Santiago said. 

“Why is the work you’re doing very important? Why does it matter now and why does it matter to the person reading the email?” And finally, emails should have an action, which provides a way for your supporters to get involved. “You always want to end your email with an ask,” Santiago said.

How should your virtual ask be structured? You have options, according to Santiago. One-time asks are great for new supporters and big moments while recurring asks help build sustainable support and growth. “For any effective fundraising program, you need both,” he said.

The theory of change can be incorporated into your emails — telling supporters why taking an action can make a difference in something your supporters care about. In this case, do X so that Y happens to achieve Z, Santiago said, and X can be donating, volunteering or signing a petition.

It’s also important to differentiate between horizontal and vertical relationships. “We always want to be on the side of horizontal relationships,” Santiago said, those where both the organization and movement leader and supporters have a stake in the problem and the solution. For example: “We can win this but only if we do it together.” Vertical relationships, on the other hand, focus on one member who has a greater standing in terms of power, authority, knowledge or wisdom, Santiago said. For example: “I have the answers, you should chip in.”

Horizontal relationships are key, according to Santiago. You want to make sure people are feeling key and not being talked to. “Use we rather than I as pronouns,” he said. “That’s very powerful because that really drives up conversation rates and long-term engagement with different organizations.”

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