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How do I raise money with email?


Do you want to raise money with email? Email solicitation is by far and away the most effective way to raise funds online. It is a low-cost way to reach out to people who support your cause and get them to send you support.

Email solicitation looks a little different in parish life than it does for a stand alone ministry. At a parish, your email communications are probably a smaller part of your relationship to your donor than in a ministry setting because you’re (hopefully seeing them every week). Let’s look at how they differ.

Email for parish life

Before you get started, ask yourself these questions: Have you been actively collecting e-mail addresses in your parish? Have you started using e-mail to communicate about parish life? Have you ever requested funding for through an e-mail solicitation?

Many parishes flounder when it comes to the use of e-mail for communications. Part of the reason for this is that most parishes don’t have a communications or marketing director. Instead, they often only have an overworked and underpaid parish secretary who is responsible for a whole host of miscellaneous things.

Fundraising should be a part of your communications strategy.

So before you begin to think about raising money through email, you need to address the question of how your parish is using this most convenient and inexpensive mode of communication.

Imagine if your pastor sent out regular emails to the parish with tips on how to grow on the spiritual. Or have ministries introduce themselves through stories written by their members. Or you could email out mass schedules during Christmas and Easter, as well as other feast days.

Before you get to email fundraising, you need email communications humming along. You have to learn to walk before you can run.

Once you’ve got your email communications humming along, you can begin sprinkling fundraising emails into your annual communications calendar. You can also add a low key donate button or encouragement to make offertory payments through the monthly giving portal on your website. (Wait, you don’t have that either? Get it now!)

Email for ministries and non-profits

For a ministry and non-profit, the email is first of all a tool for building relationships with people who are interested or involved in what you’re doing. So volunteers, board members, clients, personal connections who support the ministry.

Your emails can be either informational or inspirational. The informational type will be used to coordinate activities. The inspirational type will share stories that are intended to either stir up warm fuzzies with ministry successes or stir to action by describing an urgent need.

When you’re doing fundraising appeals through email, you need to state a clear need (people are hungry, refugees are homeless) and a clear call to action of how the funding is going to make a difference. It’s good to have a fundraising goal, but you can have a fundraising goal thermometer on your donation page rather than including it in the email.

Here are some things that you’ll want to think about as you begin to plunge into e-mail fundraising:

An email communications software

Several great services exist to help you manage your e-mail appeals. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two of the big ones. They make it easy to create e-mails and also help you track how many people receive and open your appeals. They will help you to manage your lists and provide a way for disgruntled recipients to unsubscribe.

Your communications schedule

Your email list represents relationships with real people. You need to be a good steward by not mailing funding requests too frequently. Include your email solicitation with your regular communications. You should certainly try to avoid sending more ‘ask’ emails than ‘non-ask’ emails. People will begin to think of your e-mails as spam and will unsubscribe from your list.

Your list

Like direct mail, the list is the primary factor that will determine the success of your fundraising campaign. If you’re in a parish setting, this list will not extend much beyond the boundaries of your registered parishioners. The major exception to this is if you run a major outreach like a school, homeless shelter, or food pantry that serves the broader community.

A message

This is probably the most important and most difficult thing that you will have to put together. The message is the ‘why you should donate.’ When the right message goes to the right audience, the campaign will be a success. You need to know your audience, and write with them in mind. Sell them on the mission of your organization, of your parish, and what an impact their donation will have on a certain problem.

Your success rate

The success rate is calculated by dividing the total number of donations that you receive by the number of e-mails you sent out. So if you get 5 donations from e-mailing 100 people, your success rate is 5%. A 5% rate is actually quite good for an e-mail appeal. It means that one out of twenty people donated to you. You increase your success rate by cultivating a good relationship with the people on your e-mail list. Like direct mail, email appeals are more successful the larger your list of e-mails.


E-mail spam is so annoying that they’ve made a law against it. To comply with the law, you need to follow certain prescribed practices with your e-mail campaign. Most of the big e-mail services do these things automatically, but make sure you’re informed about it beforehand. A simple search for CAN SPAM ACT will lead you to more information than you will ever possibly need.

Looking for more articles on email fundraising? Try these:

Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook for a full list of fundraising articles.

Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, via Creative Commons License, no rights reserved.
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