Email 101: Getting Started with Fundraising Emails

Before you begin

An effective fundraising email tells a compelling story and drives readers to act. 

There are many rules of thumb – use a one-word subject line, add a big button, or keep your email short. However, the best digital programs write great emails to build relationships with their donors.

Structure: anatomy of an email

Every email is an opportunity to connect with your supporters. Here’s a tried and true template to help your content resonate with donors in a competitive inbox. 

  1. Subject Line: The subject line captures the copy’s tone and emotion. If you have writers’ block (we’ve all been there), try finishing the body of your email first. 
  2. Hook: The hook introduces your moment – or the “why” of your email. A great hook is compelling and encourages your supporters to continue reading.
  3. Explainer: Spend a paragraph or two explaining why this moment is significant and how your supporter’s contribution can make a difference. 
  4. Ask: Ask your supporters to be part of the solution. Learn about horizontal messaging and the importance of treating your donors as your peers to build meaningful relationships. You can even test different ask amounts to boost conversions. (Utilize ActBlue Express Lane to make donating quick and seamless!)
  5. Second Explainer and Ask: Drive your message home with a second explainer. Show how their support is critical right now from a slightly different angle. Doing so allows you to speak more fully to your unique audience.  
  6. Thank You: Never forget to thank your supporters. They are what keep your campaign or organization running!
  7. Additional calls to action: Give supporters who aren’t ready to donate just yet other opportunities to contribute by following your campaign or organization online, signing up for SMS, volunteering, or attending an event.

Don’t forget mobile! So far in the 2022 election cycle, over 50% of contributions on ActBlue have been made via a mobile device, so you’ll want to think mobile-first and test all emails on various mobile devices before sending! Shorter paragraphs lead to higher mobile conversion rates. Long paragraphs of text, like a research paper, reduce your email’s readability, especially on a mobile device.

Sending an email step-by-step

  1. Messaging: Designate at least one person to write fundraising drafts, and don’t forget to test! You may see a significant difference in donation rates between one email pitch and another. 
  2. Audience: There are many ways to segment audiences, including engagement, location, or donation history. Most email tools will have instructions on how to segment users based on your program’s goals. 
  3. Testing: Run full content or subject line tests and see what resonates with your audience. Read more about testing in Email 201. 
  4. Proofing: You should always proof before deploying. Design a proofing process with multiple checkpoints. 
  5. Send: When you feel super confident, hit the send button and watch the donations come in on your ActBlue Dashboard!
  6. Rapid response: Work out your rapid response plan in advance with a smaller sign-off team. Getting emails out the door quickly will allow you to capitalize on the moment.