Fundraising Email Lessons From charity: water, St. Jude’s, and Red Cross

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

Over the past month, our site has featured a handful of informative posts and resources on why fundraising emails are important, fundraising email best practices, and great subject lines.

But sometimes, for the information to really hit home, it’s nice to see some examples.

While there are hundreds of quality fundraising emails to choose from, we think that the 3 highlighted below from charity: water, St. Jude’s, and the American Red Cross are perfect examples to follow for those just starting a fundraising email campaign, as well as those in the trenches of a large-scale campaign.

Part of the reason why these nonprofit brands are so recognizable is because they have marketing campaigns that work, and that includes their fundraising emails.

“Part of the reason why these nonprofit brands are so recognizable is because they have marketing campaigns that work…” tweet this

Follow the fundraising email lessons and tips shared below to help you refresh, update, and/or change your fundraising emails for the better.

charity: water

Fundraising email lessons charity:water

charity: water has revolutionized the way nonprofits send out fundraising emails for over a decade. Here’s why we think this particular fundraising email stands out:

1. It Contains A Powerful Picture

Pictures can turn your fundraising email from average to outrageously great, and charity: water perfects this. Their fundraising emails often contain images of people and scenes of the work they do and the people they serve around the world. This particular email features a real picture (not a stock photo) of an individual, two best practices when using images in fundraising emails.

2. We See A Bold Call to Action

charity: water doesn’t hide the call to action within the text of the fundraising email. Instead, the call to action within the text of the email is hyperlinked and in a different color than the rest of the text. In addition, the actual donate button is a different color and stands out on the page.

3. It’s Short and Sweet

With fundraising emails, shorter is better. Writing between 2 and 4 paragraphs is ideal, and this email keeps the content strong yet succinct.

St. Jude’s

Fundraising email lessons st judes

St. Jude’s has had a strong television and direct mail campaign for years, but their fundraising emails have taken the best aspects of their fundraising techniques and repackaged them into a powerful fundraising email campaign.

Here are 3 reasons why this email encourages donors to give:

1. It Uses A Good Story

Your story helps to connect to your audience to your work through empathy, and St. Jude’s tells a very good story in this fundraising email. It’s a personal yet informative view of the work of the organization. At the end of the story, the attention is directed back to the donor/email recipient with the sentence, “Thanks to you generous donations…”

2. It Features Images With People

We talked about using real images featuring one person above in the charity: water example, but this fundraising email also shows just how impactful images can be when the people featured in them are looking straight at the camera. Georgia Tech and Yahoo found that photos with faces are more likely to engage your readers by as much as 38%!

3. We Know Where Donations Go

Donors don’t just like to know that they’re giving to a worthwhile organization, they want to know how their donations are spent.

While this frequently occurs on the backend of a fundraising campaign, your donors may be more inclined to give if know where it is going ahead of time. In this email, we learn through the words of a recipient of services how donations changed her life for the better.

Red Cross

Fundraising email lessons red cross

The Red Cross is an international organization whose work touches the lives of millions. Their fundraising emails oftentimes give an intimate view of the lives of those they help.

Here are a few reasons why we think this fundraising email encourages action:

1. It Uses A Video

We haven’t talked a lot about using videos in fundraising emails, but they can be an extremely effective tool to engage and inspire your audience. First-hand accounts of how an organization impacted a person’s life puts a face behind your cause and has the potential to tell your story better even better than a written story.

2. The Email Is Signed By An Actual Person

The email sender really does matter when sending out a fundraising email. On the same note, your email should be signed by a person, not your organization or a logo. While this email was signed by a Vice President of the Red Cross, your emails can be signed by your CEO, fundraising chair, staff member, or board director.

3. It Features A Single Column Layout

Have you noticed a common layout for all 3 of these emails? They all feature a single column, which is the ideal layout for mobile devices. It’s easy to overlook mobile optimization, but it’s a necessity. In fact, 53% of emails are first opened on a mobile device. If you want your readers to open and engage with your emails, then start by using this layout.

“If you want your readers to open and engage with your emails, then start by using this layout…” tweet this

Take a look at your nonprofit’s fundraising emails and figure out which ways you can incorporate some of these best practices. You may find that while some are easier to implement, such as layout and signature, other techniques require forethought and extra work, including finding or writing relatable stories.

Take the time to learn about what your audience wants to know about your organization, and use client stories to show your donors just how important their donations are to real people. If you don’t know where to start, try A/B testing to figure out what content works best for your readers.

Remember, quality fundraising emails can expect a return of investment of over 3800%. It’s time to get started perfecting your next email to reap the rewards!

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