7 Smart Ways to Raise More Money With Email

With year-end fundraising just around the corner, many nonprofits would be wise to focus on their most important digital channel: email.

According to Salsa email has the highest ROI of any digital marketing channel ($40 return for every $1 invested).

The simple truth is that email allows you to send highly personalized messages to specific audience segments, increasing conversion and retention rates.

7 Ways to Raise More Money With Email

But how can you raise more money with email during year-end appeals? Here are seven proven strategies:

1. Make it Personal

People click on emails that are about “numero uno” – themselves. Salsa reports that individualizing emails can increase open rates as much as 244%.

Most email marketing tools allow you to merge personalized data (name, city, project supported, etc) into email messages. For example, check out how Donor’s Choose uses my first name and address to make this email message be very much about me:

donors choose

2. Connect the Donor to the Impact

People don’t give money to support nonprofits. They give money to make an impact.

Stop selling your amazing nonprofit. And start selling the amazing impact.

Tell donors how their gift = impact, like Mercy Corps does:

mercy corps

You can also lower donor remorse by stressing impact in your email autoresponder.

3. Start Segmenting Your List Now

Each person on your email list has a specific relationship with your organization. They might be a donor, volunteer, newsletter subscriber, or all the above!

Make sure your email marketing software and/or donor database reflects these relationships:

  • Newsletter subscriber
  • Advocate
  • Volunteer
  • Donors by dollars
  • Donors by frequency
  • New donors
  • Monthly donors
  • Etc.

Interest is another way to segment your list.

A real person exists behind every email address. They’re humans just like us, whose interests change and wane over time.


Most email marketing tools allow you to segment audiences based on how engaged they are. For example, MailChimp allows you to segment users based on their rating (as shown above).

4. Create Donor Personas

Personas are fictitious characters that represent your various audience segments. They enable you to see (and feel) your brand through the eyes of your supporters.

For a primer on creating donor personas download this free guide.

5. Light It Up With A Match

You may have a powerful story and a clear line of sight between donor and impact. But why should a potential donor give now?

Nothing conveys urgency better than a match from a large donor:

“Give before December 31st and your donation will be doubled!”

That precious donor that gives you thousands of dollars each year? Prove your savviness by stretching their dollars twice as far:


6. Increase Retention with an Onboarding Sequence

Various fundraising studies have shown that if you follow up with new donors the day after, 30 days after, and 90 days after their first gift, they will be more likely to give again.

Write an onboarding series (a drip campaign) with at least 3 messages that:

  • Makes new donors feel like they matter
  • Shares impact stories with new donors
  • Gets new donors sharing with their friends
  • Asks for another gift or monthly donation

7. Keep Subject Lines 28 to 39 Characters

The best length for a subject line? Not too short, not too long.

Salsa reports that subject lines between 28 and 39 characters get the most opens. The heading that precedes this paragraph is 38 characters, as an example.

Of course, there are many other factors that influence open rate. Things like recency, sender name, and send time also impact open rates.

And if you’re looking for an excellent source of inspiration, read Steve Maclaughlin’s list of 300 More Email Subject Lines from End of Year Fundraising – [http://npengage.com/nonprofit-fundraising/300-more-email-subject-lines-from-end-year-fundraising/]

Pro tip: Use letter count to see how many characters your subject line has.

What next?

Email is one of your most important digital channels. With email, you can reach donors directly, stay top-of-mind, and keep them coming back for more. It’s well worth the investment to get this channel right!

John Haydon