Most fundraisers use email the wrong way

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

Every marketing channel needs to be optimized and employed properly. Sadly most fundraisers are using email the wrong way. Email should NOT be used primarily for fundraising. Rather it should be used mostly to build engagement.
It should be used to tell stories, involve supporters, report back how gifts were used and make them feel good… not so much for asking.
Think of an email to a donor as you would an email to your friend. Would you only ask for money from a friend in every email? No, of course not. Maybe every once in a while. But you would do that sparingly and only when the time is right.
I wish fundraisers would finally learn to stop “blasting” and “start engaging”. Too many treat email like the button they press to get money out of an ATM. That’s not how it works. That’s not how donors want to be treated.
It CAN be used to raise money. But donors first need to get value. If fundraisers would provide more value in their emails, they’ll get more donations. If you give, you’ll get.
One would think people employed in the ‘charitable sector’ would understand the law of reciprocity. Nonprofits need to give first in order to grow their relationships with supporters to the point where they feel that they got so much value that they absolutely MUST give back.
More on this in my 10 Commandments of Engagement Fundraising here.


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Troy P Mitchell
Troy P Mitchell
5 years ago

Absolutely, involving donors in the progress and impact of the organization has a much more profound impact than an email thanking them and/or requesting donations. Fully engaging supporters/donors to the extent they’re comfortable with strengthens the relationship and ultimately a fully committed support!

Greg Warner
5 years ago

Right on Troy!

5 years ago

Excellent, Greg! One of the basic principles of “good business” for any organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is to first give value. Was it Zig Ziglar who said that we cannot go to the fireplace and ask for fire without first putting in firewood. We give first. We receive in return.

Greg Warner
5 years ago
Reply to  Scott

Thanks Scott. Yep. You can never go wrong with the law of reciprocity.

Laura Waller
5 years ago

Whatsoever ye sow, ye shall also reap . . . . It’s important on the planned gift/major gift side especially to give the donor tools for self-discernment that leads to success. If you give them a pathway to success, significance, and security, they will return it. And I don’t think that means bombarding them with a lot of technical PG mumbo-jumbo that they may/may not be ready for or need. It’s about showing them how philanthropy creates value and meaning in every area of life.

Greg Warner
5 years ago
Reply to  Laura Waller

Three cheers for Laura Waller! Thanks!

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