Can Email Move Us to Give?

Good writers know how to get our attention.

If their craft is direct mail, they grip us at the opening and tug us through three or four hundred words of vivid storytelling. By the end of the letter, they have us hearing their case, feeling their cause, and opening our hearts— and pocketbooks.

Don't believe the writer who tells you it's easier to write a great short letter than a long one. On the other hand — with all due respect — don't believe anyone who tells you that it's impossible to write a terrific and moving email.

Email fundraising is a learned craft. And it's a very tough one. In just a few words, we must tell a story that will quickly and deeply resonate. In an email, every single word we use is precious. Every single phrase is potentially powerful— and potentially deadly. There is no margin to misstep or even settle for something that's just OK. One bad choice and you may lose your donor or prospect to the black hole of the "unsubscribe" button forever.

Fortunately, many fundraisers do seem to be learning the craft, and learning it well. Last we did the math, the amount of money being raised via email in the U.S. was numbering in the billions of dollars.

The problem with email fundraising, in our view, is that far too many fundraisers forget that emails can't be, fundamentally, all about fundraising. Email tools must first and foremost be used to engage, cultivate, and captivate our constituents. And finally — in the right way at just the right moment — to ask for that donation.

It's a delicate dance. But we've seen it done to perfection more times than we can count. Have you?

We'd like to see some of the emails that have moved you to give or performed well for your organization. Please forward your examples to us at

And be sure to let our friend Tom at The Agitator know what you think— he needs to be convinced!

P.S. We've posted just a few of the many emails that have moved us here:

Harry Lynch


Harry Lynch