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Three-Step Formula for Writing a Great Fundraising Email

One of the most challenging (and fun!) tasks of a nonprofit digital marketer is writing a great fundraising email to your organization’s supporters. But what separates an average nonprofit email from a great email?

There are endless ways to write email fundraising appeals, but here are the most important criteria:

  • It’s easy to scan.
  • It’s compelling.
  • It has one urgent call-to-action.

Sounds easy enough… but before we dive into the formula for writing a fundraising email, let’s first ask the question: does fundraising via email actually work for nonprofits? The answer is a resounding YES!

For most of our clients, email is the most successful digital channel for driving donations online. In fact, according to M+R’s 2017 Benchmarks Study, email was responsible for 26% of all online revenue for nonprofits. For more great tips about running a successful multi-channel fundraiser, click here.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that email fundraising matters. So, what’s the simplest way to drive those much-needed donations?

I recommend following this three-step formula, commonly used by advocacy and political campaigners to drive digital actions:

Problem —> Solution —> Ask

Step One: The Problem

We live in a sensational world. Why do you think there’s so much bad news on TV and the internet? Because it drives views and clicks!

While you certainly don’t want to demoralize your supporters, use this behavioral knowledge to your benefit.

What is the problem your organization is addressing and why is it important for your supporter to pay attention to RIGHT NOW? Defining the problem at the very beginning of your email is often the best way to create an emotional hook that immediately draws in the reader.

Problem Example:

This email will affect over 40% of the people that you love.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. In their lifetimes, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will receive a cancer diagnosis. These are our mother and fathers, brothers and sisters, children, friends, and possibly ourselves. It is a disease that touches us all.

Step Two: The Solution

As changemakers, we confront issues that are challenging and often depressing, but it’s critical to remain optimistic, positive, and clearly explain solutions to our supporters.

While the Problem grabs a reader’s attention, it is the Solution that compels them to take action. After all, why would you donate to a cause that has no chance at changing the status quo?

Solution Example:

Fight Cancer’s [not a real nonprofit] sole mission is to change those statistics forever. Here’s how we’re working to create more cancer survivors every day:

  • We fund the brightest cancer researchers to collaborate on cutting-edge ideas instead of competing for the same grants.
  • We connect patients to the most promising clinical trials that will also save lives in the future.
  • 100% of your donation to Fight Cancer will directly fund lifesaving research.

Step Three: The Ask

Now that your reader has been hooked by the Problem and compelled by the Solution, it’s time to activate them with an Ask. The Ask should clearly answer the question: what can I do to be a part of the Solution to the Problem?

Ask Example:

Will you join the Fight Cancer movement and donate $50 or more to fund new therapies that will save lives now?

PRO TIP: Make the Ask bold so it stands out and hyperlink the entire sentence to your donation link.

Now, let’s see how it reads when you combine the Problem, Solution, and Ask into one email.

Fundraising Email Example

This email will affect over 40% of the people that you love.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain. In their lifetimes, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will receive a cancer diagnosis. These are our mother and fathers, brothers and sisters, children, friends, and possibly ourselves. It is a disease that touches us all.

Fight Cancer’s sole mission is to change those statistics forever. Here’s how we’re working to create more cancer survivors every day:

  • We fund the brightest cancer researchers to collaborate on cutting-edge ideas instead of competing for the same grants.
  • We connect patients to the most promising clinical trials that will also save lives in the future.
  • 100% of your donation to Fight Cancer will directly fund lifesaving research.

Will you join the Fight Cancer movement and donate $50 or more to fund new therapies that will save lives now?

 

Pretty compelling, right? Remember that while the Problem, Solution, Ask formula is the foundation for writing a great fundraising email, it is not a rule. Like any novelist or poet, once you master the writing basics, get creative and break the rules!

fundraising email

Here are some ideas that can be incorporated into your Problem, Solution, Ask emails: focus on storytelling by using first-person narrative, design eye-catching graphics that also link to your donation page, create urgency by riding the media buzz of a breaking news story, and more! Leveraging emails like the example above, Stand Up to Cancer raised over $627,000 towards critical cancer research.

Digital Fundraising Campaign Generates $627K for Cancer Research

There’s no limit to where you can take your creativity! Just remember that every fundraising email should clearly convey the Problem, the Solution, and the Ask. Good luck!

 


Interested in getting some help with your email marketing or fundraising campaign? Get in touch with us! We’d love to help.



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