Driven’s Top Tips On Asking For Donations With Email

Email is a convenient and cost-effective way to get personalized messages directly to your donor’s inbox. When asking for donations, it’s important to build a relationship beforehand. Using your mailing list, you hopefully already have a ton of people interested in the work you do and want to hear from you and potentially make a donation. 

Ideally, you are using your email to regularly update your supporters on your organization, keeping them in the loop on your work, milestones or special events.  If you’re doing this on a regular basis, they should already have an understanding of the work your organization does and the impact their donation can make. 

All you have to do now is ask for a donation. Many of your supporters are likely looking for a way to support you with a gift, they are just waiting to be asked!  Here are some of our top tips on asking for donations. 

Start With An Interesting Subject Line

We already have a whole blog post dedicated to email subject lines, but we can summarize it for you here. Your email’s subject line has to be intriguing, build urgency and personal to your reader. 

People receive hundreds of emails in their inbox, so yours needs to stand out. Try and give a teaser on what’s to come, or use their first name to personalize the message. Write you your email first, and then come up with a punchy subject line that goes with it. 

For example, "John, You Change the Lives of 100 Kids” or "This picture says it all”. My favourite example is from Mazarine Treyz’s newsletter where she shares her experience in a cult and how fundraising brought her out of it. The subject line was simply "I was in a cult” and you bet I went straight to it without even looking at my other emails. Shock and curiosity work and you need to pull on those emotions in your subject line. 

Make It Personal

Your donors want to feel connected with your organization, and building that relationship is so important. Before sending that email, ask yourself if it’s too generalized. Try to personalize your messages where you can. This is where segmenting your email list and inserting specific information can come in handy to create better, more meaningful messages.  

You can create segments on past giving patterns, interests, demographics or on where they are in the donor cycle. Think about what works best for your donor group and use any information in your database that can help make that decision. Have they given this year?  Thank them specifically.  Did they give last year and not this year?  Mention how their gift went to work last year, and this year the need is still great.  

When making an ask for donations online, it’s important to make donors feel special. With everything going virtual, our donors are missing the personal interaction that comes with getting a cup of coffee to catch up. If you ask for donations without building that connection readers will not be motivated to give.                      

Be Upfront About Asking for a Donation

Try to make your ask early on in the email. When sending appeals in your email, you have to get to the point - within the first two paragraphs is usually best. When the intro is done it’s time to ask for a gift. 

You don’t want your reader to get to the middle of the email and still not know what the point is. By the time you make the ask, they may have already tuned out or skipped through it. You may even want to put your ask in bold or italics so it stands out. Or use bullet points or short sentences to make it easy to skim and read. 

Be Clear With Your Ask 

Being transparent about the intention of your email builds trust between you and your donor. Just be honest, they’re smart and will know when you’re asking for money. If they are on your mailing list they are interested in you, so don’t be shy about being direct. 

Be clear with what their donation can do. Donors want to invest in a nonprofit with a solid vision, strategy and passion for their work. Being confident in your messages shows them that you are confident in your ability to reach your goals and live out your mission. 

Having a donation list can really help with this. List different donation amounts explaining what each can help accomplish within your nonprofit, or if you want them to make monthly donations. For example, $20 can feed a family for a day but $100 can feed them for a week. Contextualizing their donation with each amount helps them visualize their impact making them more inclined to act. 

Test, test, test! 

If you’re using robust donor management software, you should be able to send and track emails while connecting to your database. It’s important to have a good email management system like Driven to help keep track of metrics, streamline the donation process and stay organized. 

When it comes to finding success in your appeals, there is never a one-size-fits-all for every organization. Try different things like changing up the images, subject lines or formatting to see what works best and keep track of those results. Different donor segments might result in different types of messages, and the only way to learn that is to test and try new things. 

Tracking is just as important as testing, so make sure you are keeping a close eye on each of the tests and giving them a fair shot at success. Understanding the motives that make people want to support you and donate can help you in so many other areas, so it’s worth a try.

Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

There are so many ways to show donor appreciation, like with a phone call, a letter, or using email.

When you email the tax receipt, say thank you to your donors. Be sure to do this immediately if possible, or in a timely fashion (within 24 hours) to stay top of mind. You can reassure them of the impact they will make and ask them to follow your progress on social media. 

Following up is all part of building that relationship. Donors will want to hear from you again and look forward to seeing you succeed, so don’t be scared to reach out to them. Consider building out a welcome series, which is an automated series of emails that welcomes them as supporters and invites them to continue to support your mission.. 

Tell a Good Story

It’s important to lead with a good story when asking for donations. Fundraising is essentially storytelling, and you have to get to know and connect with your donors. Think about your donors as your friends. Even if it’s a quick email it’s important to build that connection by showing emotion in your messages in the context of a good story. 

You can lead with one or two sentences introducing the issue you are trying to solve. Really paint the picture of why you are asking them for donations, what can they do to help? Before bringing up money, get them invested emotionally. 
Bonus: Offer Other Ways to Support Your Nonprofit
Some of your closet supporters may not have the money right now to consider making a monetary donation. If they still want to show their support for you, consider offering other ways for them to do so. 

They can volunteer, follow you on social media or just tell a friend about the work you're doing. At the end of your letters asking for donations you can write a sentence or two encouraging donors to follow you on social media, reading more or sharing your nonprofit with someone who might benefit. 

Charitable donations are not always about the money, any gift counts. No matter the amount! 


Email is a great way to connect with donors and ask for donations. They go straight to a person’s inbox and it’s so easy to link to your charitable donation pages or campaigns which just makes the donation process simpler. If you want to amplify your channels, you can send a letter asking for donations to their actual mailboxes using direct mail. When paired with a digital strategy direct mail can be extremely effective when fundraising. 

To solicit donations for your nonprofit you need to know your donors. Get the most out of your email campaigns by using a strong donor management system. Being able to streamline the donation process can save a lot of time in admin and help retain donors. To learn more reach out to us at 

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By Sabrina Sciscente (RA) on Apr 2, 2021, 12:00 AM


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