People ignore the ordinary. We’re wired to notice the anomalies and quickly process the familiar. It’s why you know something is “off” about your desk before you identify which object is out of place or missing. It’s also why your fundraising emails start to lose their impact after a while.
When your donors hear the same requests based on the same story they’ve heard for months, they start to tune it out. Giving stops. Not because donors don’t care about your mission anymore, but rather, they don’t feel motivated because they’ve heard it all before.
To keep your donors engaged — and committed to your cause — you need a variety of generosity requests plus a plan for when you’ll use each one. We created 7 fundraising email templates that you can use at your nonprofit. Take some time to personalize each one for your organization and watch engagement grow.
Before we dive into the fundraising email templates, we wanted to offer a small note on the strategy of using different generosity requests. Before you schedule any generosity request, consider the donors’ journey to that point. What have they heard from you? What have you provided them? What are they feeling at this point?
Sometimes organizations forget that donors don’t experience their work the same way. Donors don’t see every communication, so there are gaps in their knowledge. It’s your responsibility to anticipate the gaps and fill them before you ask for more. Remember that generosity begets more generosity. So anytime you ask for something from your donors, make sure that you’re providing as well.
The value you provide can be as simple as the opportunity to feel good about their donation or as complex as a spot on your board. The important thing is that you know what the donor values and that you’ve provided something of that nature before sending the next generosity request. As long as there is a strategy to the donors’ journey and a variety of ways to give, you should see an increase in generosity.
The urgent generosity request should be used sparingly. The purpose is to express how close you are to achieving a goal and ask for immediate action. As an organization with projections to meet, it might feel like every ask should fall under the urgent umbrella. But remember, if everything is an emergency, then nothing is an emergency.
Generally, these requests are best left for the very end of a campaign or during December. If your nonprofit provides relief efforts, they can also be used during times of crisis or disaster. Outside of that, try using another type of request.
Here’s an urgent fundraising email template you can use for your donors.
Subject: James, can you help us reach our goal before midnight?
Preview Text: A $50 donation from you will get us 5% closer to our goal.
As you know, September we pushed ourselves to raise $50,000 so we could build a new school in Guatemala. Our community showed tremendous support and we’re so close.
But with 12 hours left, we need your help! Right now, we’re only $1,000 away from our goal, and we’re hoping you can help us get 5% closer to our goal.
Can we have your commitment of $50 right now?
If you want to learn more about where the $50,000 is going and how the extra $50 from you can help, check out our website. Everything you’d want to know about our project and our goal is right there.
Thank you for your continued generosity, James. Our team couldn’t do it without you!
The School Building Team
Notice that the email addresses the donor by name at every opportunity. It also mentions how much time the organization has left to come up with the difference and the significant impact James will have on that difference. The language also includes urgent language like “12 hours left”, “right now” and “Donate Now” to reinforce the idea that he should act immediately.
Perhaps most compelling, this approach gives the donor a target giving level and an immediate sense of how their gift will have a direct impact on the goal ($50 moves the needle by 5%).
The specific generosity request is particularly effective on donors with whom you’ve built a strong relationship. You know exactly what they’re interested in and what contributions make them feel proudest. With a network of multi-talented donors and a clear vision for how they can help you, your specific generosity requests will convert quickly.
Here’s an example of a specific generosity request that you can use.
Subject: Kendra, can you consult on our Q3 initiative?
Preview Text: We need your developer expertise on a landing page.
I hope you’ve been well. How did your trip to Montana go?
I’ve been hard at work on our big campaign for August. We’re trying to connect with new community members who can help us grow our impact in 2020. Part of our project is an immersive website experience. As soon as we started talking about a unique landing page, I knew you’d be the perfect person to talk to.
Do you have a 5 hours over the next 3 weeks to consult on the second phase of our landing page? We’re hoping your knowledge of our work, plus incredible UX experience will help us build the best page possible.
If you can commit 5 hours, just let me know the best time to call you and we can chat details.
Thank you for being such a big part of our success over the last 5 years. Hope to talk to you soon.
Unlike the urgent request, this email comes directly from a representative of the nonprofit. Jason has built a relationship with Kendra over the last 5 years, so the request should come directly from him, someone she’s fond of and knows appreciates her.
The request also contains details that prove to Kendra that the team was thoughtful about the request. She knows that the nonprofit’s entire email list did not get this same email because it speaks to her specific interests and expertise.
Finally, it gives enough details that she can say yes or no without needing more information. In generosity requests, you want to drive a decision. Try to include enough information that they know their answer before they even get to the end of the email.
Those first 48 hours after a donor’s first act of generosity are when they are most motivated and engaged with your nonprofit. They are eager to learn more about the work you do, but more importantly, how they can fit into that work. It might seem counter-intuitive, but during that time period is when donors are primed to give again.
Follow up your thank you email with an ask for different kinds of generosity. If they gave money, ask them to connect with you on social media to tell their friends about the cause they support. Ask donors who volunteered if they want to purchase a shirt as a momento from their experience. Any follow up action you can encourage will add a deeper connection to your nonprofit.
This template follows up on a volunteer event, but you can experiment with this fundraising email template to drive more generosity after other kinds of acts of generosity, too.
Subject: It was a pleasure to have you today, Jen
Preview Text: Do you mind telling the world how you changed the world today?
You were incredible today! Because of you, we boxed over 300 meals for San Diego elementary students.
We took some pictures at the warehouse today. If you like them, please feel free to post them on your social channels! If you want to use #FeedSanDiego our team is always looking out for new ways to highlight our amazing community of change-makers.
If you’re not already, please follow us on Instagram and Facebook. We announce exclusive events and opportunities for our volunteers around the city.
We can’t wait to see you again, Jen! Thank you for spending time with us.
Cameron and the whole Feed San Diego Team
In a short email, Cameron was able to say thank you in a genuine way, plus give Jen social proof that she lives the values she talks about online. Only after she thanks Jen and provides some professional photos does Cameron make her generosity request. Notice that each ask (for Jen to use the hashtag and follow their social channels) is followed directly by a reason why.
When you’re making a follow-up request to your donors, make it clear what else they’ll get from this second action. Let them know the kind of impact that second action will make and what they can expect as a result. Never ask a donor for something just because you think they should do it. Put your donor at the center and identify what they would want most from you.
The curious generosity request might be the most unfamiliar to your team, but we think it’s one of the most important as you start to develop a relationship with your individual donors. We all understand the difficult task of securing a second donation from new donors. In fact, nonprofits fail to get that second donation 75% of the time. The curious generosity request is a way to prevent that.
The purpose of this request is simply to get your donor to tell you more about their interests, ideas and motivations. By routinely reaching out to your donors to ask about what’s important to them (and then following up with personalized information they want), you can build a more authentic relationship and start to improve your donor retention rate.
Here’s an example of what a generosity request might look like if you were just curious about the donor’s motivations and interests.
Subject: What else do we have in common, Garrett?
Preview Text: We’d love to learn more about your interests.
Welcome! You’re the 111th person from Denver who has committed to helping improve water quality in the United States. As number 35, I can speak on behalf of all of us and say we’re so excited to have you on our team!
As our community grows, we want to make sure we still keep personal connections to every one of our members. We already know you’re generous and action-oriented, but we’re hoping you’ll tell us more,
If you have 5 minutes, we have 5 questions. Don’t worry — they’re all fun questions! Nothing you would fill out at the DMV. We look forward to your responses and finding ways to connect on a deeper level.
Talk to you soon!
Even for nonprofits who work in the most dire situations, there is an appropriate time for positive, joyful engagements with your donors. You don’t want to constantly show them negativity, especially when it comes to the staff at your organization. The curious generosity request gives you an opportunity to be personable while also asking for valuable information from your donors.
Notice that the message is upbeat, personalized and driven by a single mission: to make sure Garrett feels included in the organization and connected to Grace, specifically. By giving your donors a representative with an immediate connection, you can make them feel special and important to your success. That kind of genuine connection is what drives repeat giving.
Protip: Be sure you track the answers to the survey in your Donor Management Software. If you took the time to gather info to build a relationship, you need to be sure that future messages reference what you’ve learned, and your Donor Management Software is the place to store it.
Finally, we encourage all nonprofits to include personal stories from their employees as part of their fundraising efforts. Your donors are driven by the work that you do as a collective, but it’s difficult to sustain a connection to the name of an organization.
Even Nike, a brand that communicates a set of values and traits on its own, still uses the personal stories of athletes to communicate those values. Without highlighting the story of Serena Williams, a potential customer would never know Nike is dedicated to perseverance and inspiring the next generation. Similarly, your nonprofit should use the stories of your employees to communicate the traits of your nonprofit to donors.
To put that personal story in the context of a generosity request, consider this fundraising email template for your next campaign.
Subject: Will you let me share my story with you, Nathan?
Preview Text: I want to tell you the moment I knew I had to work with Our Kitchen.
You’ve shared with me how you were drawn to Our Kitchen based on your own experiences with hunger. Your generosity both in the time you spend volunteering with us and sharing your story inspired me to tell you more about my journey.
I recorded a video for you here. I think you’ll enjoy the part during 2:23, where we have a similar experience during our first volunteer visit.
I’d also like to invite you to volunteer with me next weekend. I would love to talk more about our experiences doing the thing we have in common — getting involved with Our Kitchen!
I’ll be there Saturday from 2-5pm. Can you make it? If yes, just add your name to our list.
Can’t wait to see you and thanks for listening to my story!
This is a popular generosity request because it doesn’t lead with the request. To Nathan, it looks like Alejandra simply wants to connect on what they have in common. As a bonus, he gets a personalized invitation to hang out with her while volunteering. Of course, that’s what Alejandra was hoping for the whole time, but by reframing the ask, she’s giving Nathan a new experience.
Your generosity requests don’t need to be long, complex messages in order to break up the monotony in your donor’s inbox. They simply have to be different enough that it seems new. Most importantly, they should be as personal as possible. Your donor, no matter what you ask of them, is more likely to respond if they feel like they’re needed and not just another name on your list.
For a more complete training on writing the perfect fundraising emails, check out our on-demand webinar. We partnered with NextAfter to bring you templates and techniques for crafting fundraising emails that convert.
Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.