5 Important Tips for Writing Donor-Focused Emails | npENGAGE

5 Important Tips for Writing Donor-Focused Emails

By on Dec 14, 2016


Your constituents receive A LOT of emails. A recent report estimated that a person receives over 200 emails every day. So how do you make your email stand out, especially during the email surge that happens during end of year?

Well, design is part of the equation. Making sure that your email has a nice, branded header and that it’s responsive for any screen size is a good place to start.

The other half of the equation is content. You’ve heard the saying “content is king” before, right? Well the same holds true for email. Here are some tips for writing email appeals that your constituents will actually read:

1. Use the Inverted Pyramid Technique

Back in school, I was taught to write papers that would build up to a conclusion. I’d start with an introduction, then build my case and finally, make a point. When you’re writing emails (or for online), the opposite method works best: you want to make your point first, then follow it with supporting details. This is known as the inverted pyramid technique. Always assume your reader will only read the first few words of each paragraph and make sure your message comes across quickly.

2. Use Short Paragraphs With Line Breaks in Between

If your constituents will read the first few words of each paragraph, it makes sense to have more paragraphs, right? It also makes your email look less daunting making it more likely to get read. This tip and the next few all help make your emails more “scannable”, meaning it’s easy to glean the key messages at a quick glance.

3. Use Bulleted or Numbered Lists

As you can tell from to format of this blog post, I like lists. They help to break up the paragraphs and add major points to the “scannability” factor.

4. Use Bold and/or Colored Text to Create a Visual Hierarchy

A good visual hierarchy draws the reader’s eye to the most important content first. In an email, you can do this by bolding parts of sentences or using colored text. Text links and buttons for call-to-action links are a great way to convey a visual hierarchy too. Think about 2-3 key messages you want to convey in your email and make sure that each of those messages is highlighted visually in some way.

5. Be Concise

Remember, your readers are inundated with email. After you write your initial draft, go through and find words and phrases you can leave out. If your point comes across without a sentence or two, take them out!

I hope these tips inspire you to think about your readers as you write your next email. I also encourage you to use these tips when writing your everyday office emails. It’s respectful of your readers’ time and attention span!

EOY Fundraising Toolkit


Lacey Kruger, principal information architect for Blackbaud, designs online properties for nonprofits that delight and inspire. Whether a full scale website, a campaign site or a peer to peer fundraising site, Lacey guides clients through a research-based and user-centered approach to design. In her 15+ years at Blackbaud, she has developed a deep understanding of nonprofit web presences. That knowledge, along with her years of experience in information design, have established her as an industry expert.

Lacey has written a Blackbaud eBook, “A Guide to the Nonprofit Web Design Process” and her article, “Designing Nonprofit Experiences: Building a UX Toolkit” was published in User Experience magazine. She has presented at industry conferences including bbcon, IA Summit and BIG Design.

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