Want to Write Good Fundraising Emails? Learn from the Direct Mail Business.

If you want to write good emails, then start by learning from direct mail professionals. To be clear, there are a lot of differences between postal mail and email. However, you should learn some of the basics of copywriting from direct mail. We recommend Benjamin Hart’s Fund Your Cause With Direct Mail.

Direct mail is where small to medium dollar fundraising in politics and nonprofits began. Professionals like Benjamin Hart have decades of experience. A lot of their work can benefit your email writing. 

Here’s some of the wisdom I learned from Hart’s book:

Length of copy. 


When writing fundraising copy use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. You’re competing for everyone’s attention constantly in marketing. Don’t waste your time on too much copy. You want readers to be able to skim your email and understand it.

Don’t bury your lead. 


Even in direct mail where letters are often longer than emails, do not bury your fundraising ask. You want to drive action more than write a treatise on government. On that note, the next lesson learned from direct mail is…

Why do people donate? Because they were asked! 


Often we have clients who are hesitant and embarrassed to ask for money. It’s a hurdle many people struggle with when it comes to fundraising. However, you must be clear in your ask for donations. I often like to use a question with their first name. Like our Jesus Christ said, “Ask and you shall receive!”

Have a great opening sentence.


The first sentence is crucial. You have to capture the reader’s attention while creating enough curiosity to continue. With email, in particular, subject lines are very important and serve a similar purpose. 

There are dozens of more lessons in Benjamin Hart’s book. He gives 40 writing lessons and 79 techniques and strategies. Not all of them apply to email. But many of them do. Even the gimmicks that are mail specific are worthwhile. They will spark your imagination for how you can take a similar concept and apply to email. 

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