The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

This Is What a Fundraising Email Looks Like

Nonprofits often email us here at Network for Good asking for examples of a fundraising email.  Here’s an example of one we received today from IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It’s a very effective email because it answers the four most important questions donors care about:

  1. Why me? Your audience needs to care about what you are doing. They need to connect to you on a human level. Use pictures, tell stories and do anything that can help your audience relate. In this case, IFAW uses the testimonial of someone on the ground to help connect potential donors to the need.
  2. Why now? The more specific you can be with how much you need and when you need it by the more credible, compelling and worthy you will seem. Create a sense of urgency and immediacy. While many Americans are already aware that there is a national emergency in North Dakota, the email frames the urgency even more directly: “President Obama has already declared a state of emergency in this area, because of flood waters that could reach over 44 feet! It’s already 22 feet above the flood stage – 22 feet! That’s over the roof line of many of the houses!”
  3. What for? Show what specific and tangible result will come from a donation – for the donor and for your programs. People give because they want to do something good, so give assurances that good things will happen due to their donations. In this case, 3,000 animals are in need of temporary shelter, food, medical care and clean water.
  4. Who says? The messenger is often as important as the message. Use trustworthy messengers – people you’ve actually helped or other donors instead of just you. People say friends and family are the most influential in determining where they give money, so also think about how you can get your supporters to speak for you among their own circles of influence.  In this case, the messenger is someone people can trust, a relief manager who is on the ground at the scene of the disaster.

And in terms of email marketing best practices, this email is also very effective:

  • The email includes an opt-out link at the bottom.
  • The sender used a plain text email instead of HTML, which underscores the sense of urgency.
  • The subject line is compelling and draws the reader’s interest “FW: Urgent: N. Dakota flood emergency” — it also gives the appearance of an email you might receive forwarded from a friend.

While this email looks like it was sent from an email client like Outlook, IFAW wouldn’t make that mistake.  They are actually using an email service provider.

Here’s the email:


Dear Jono,

I’m quickly forwarding this email from Dick Green, IFAW’s Emergency Relief Manager, who is planning our emergency animal rescue response to the tragic flooding in North Dakota.

There may be over 3,000 animals in need of temporary shelter, food, medical care and clean water, including many cats and dogs abandoned or separated from their owners. Our rescue teams are on the way right now.

Please send an emergency donation to help us rescue and care for as many animals as possible.

It’s up to us to make sure these animals get the care they need. I’ll update you on the situation as soon as we have more information.

Thanks so much,

Fred O’Regan


From: Dick Green
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 3:52 PM
To: Fred O’Regan
Subject: Urgent: N. Dakota flood emergency


The situation for animals in North Dakota is bad. Already many areas are flooded and many animals are stranded and need to be rescued.

I’ve just been asked by the North Dakota Animal Health Commission to mobilize IFAW’s Emergency Relief Team to assist with the rescue and temporary sheltering of what could be over 3,000 animals, most of them cats and dogs separated from their owners. Animal shelters are to be established in Fargo, Bismarck, and Valley City.

This is going to be a huge drain on our resources and we’re going to need emergency funding for crates, food, medicine, and the many other supplies essential to setting to set up shelters on this scale.

President Obama has already declared a state of emergency in this area, because of flood waters that could reach over 44 feet! It’s already 22 feet above the flood stage – 22 feet! That’s over the roof line of many of the houses!

The state has already mobilized the National Guard to help local police and fire departments with the rescue and evacuation, but they can’t do it all. That’s why we’ve been called in to look after the animals. I am flying out now to help the Assistant State Vet coordinate NGO resources. Our rescue and sheltering teams will arrive on Sat and Sun at which time I will leave the State Emergency Operations Center and join them.

Before we arrive, supporters need to know about this emergency so they can take an active role in helping us save as many cats and dogs as possible. I’ll share more details on our conference call later tonight.



This message was sent to XXXX. Please click here to remove yourself from IFAW’s e-mail lists.

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Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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