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5 email storytelling tips to inspire donors to give

Email storytelling matters a lot if you want to inspire donors to give. Is your storytelling emotive? Does it move people to give or share with colleagues and friends?

It’s stories that shape organisations. It’s stories that motivate people to give but it’s really the art of good story-telling that keep your donors coming back. That’s why it is important to master it and incorporate it every chance you get to communicate to your audience. 

In order to increase your online donations, you want to tell a compelling story that can keep your readers engaged. So what are these best practices? Let’s check them out: 

Let’s use a hypothetical case study: Abandoned 10 year old discovered on the streets selling compelling hand-drawn art pieces of people and abstract things. 

1. Make it memorable 

  • Use a captivating subject line

Your subject line is the first thing readers will see when your email hits their inbox. Keep it relatively short, urgent, and hard to ignore. Take an example of our case study. Here’s an example of a good and bad subject line. 

Bad: Kasozi Henry is abandoned but talented. He needs your help!

That subject line feels like a reach in trying to make an urgent call for help. It also gives away all the details about Henry without a background story. 

Good: Meet Henry: the street’s favorite orphan.

It’s short, catchy, and gives just enough detail to make someone want to learn more. One could ask themselves, “the street’s favorite orphan”? What does that even mean and feel compelled to open the email. 

  • Tell a compelling story

Human beings naturally respond to stories, so it’s important to tell a good one. Explain how you met Henry for example, why his parents abandoned him, how he started drawing, where he gets drawing material from and why he’s still sleeping on the streets. 

This is how I would tell Henry’s story.

Henry has had to succumb to harsh means of survival since his aunt threw him out when he was 12. People in the village say Henry’s mother could have been suffering from a mental health disease. She was a farmer. From time to time, she would dress up like she was headed for the disco and go do the gardening. Other times, she would get angry and storm off, leaving little Henry alone in the house. 

One Friday evening, she told the neighbors to look out for Henry so she can go sell her produce. That was the last they saw her. She never came back. The neighbors called Henry’s aunt who took him in. Irritated by the new addition to the family, she’d give him one meal a day while the rest of her children enjoyed 3 good meals. She made him do all the house chores and sleep on the floor without beddings all the 2 years he stayed with him until she eventually threw him out. 

Now Henry moves out. With no plan in mind, he moves from place to place, sleeping on the streets, stealing whatever he could find so he could eat a cheap meal. He discovered his love for art through a friendly shopkeeper with whom he used to hang around. He would steal pencils from his stock and draw on his walls. Frustrated, the shopkeeper gave him paper one day and that made his first drawing- a beautiful wildflower in a flower pot. 

He takes to the streets and tries to sell but nobody buys. Nobody can buy from a dirty looking kid no matter how cheap. Sandra, our community coordinator has a big heart for children. She was compelled to stop and ask his story one time as she moved through the streets of Kampala…


This story is relatable on some level and doesn’t feel far-fetched. 

  • Show the impact of donor contributions, as well. If they were to give $30, what exactly would it help Henry with? 
  • Appeal to their emotions without guilt-tripping them. Guilt-tripping is a tired and honestly ugly tactic to use to get donors to give. It is saying “if you don’t give Henry money to get off the streets, he will be beaten to death before he turns 16.” 

By making your email content memorable, you’ll ensure that your readers actually act because they find value in the copy. 

2. Let People Tell Their Own Stories

An even better alternative is to let the beneficiary tell their own story. People tend to believe stories more when it’s coming straight out of the horse’s mouth. 

Take a look at this impact storytelling video by 92hands. 

One of our partners, Fields of Life also used this approach of storytelling to call for support in building the Vocational Institute in Northern Uganda. The video shows locals telling their stories of the war that displaced them and discontinued them from going to school. 

3. Use Visuals 

Visuals go a long way and are a great method of breaking up text in an email. The following are examples of visual elements you can use in your emails:

  • Use striking photos. For our case study, we can use a positive photo of Henry and some of his artworks. 
  • Colors. When designing your newsletter, use brand colours and make a clean-looking design, and be sure to choose 2 colors at most so that people aren’t distracted from reading the content.
  • Fonts. Use an easy-on the-eyes font that is supported on all devices and simpler in appearance. 

Remember that your emails are a direct representation of your website and your website is an employee. Make it count!

4. Stay away from statistics 

Sometimes, we feel we must let our audience know what impact we are making as a way of convincing them to give them to donate more but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Statistics are good to show on the website or after a campaign to show the number of donations and the number of people impacted. More like an impact report.

When you’re writing a story-telling email, figures are a distraction from the beneficiaries you’re trying to help. Focus on who needs help at the moment, not who already benefited. 

5. Close with a strong CTA

One of the biggest parts of telling your email story is how you close it. You should include a powerful call-to-action that inspires your donors to click through and arrive at your donation page.

Henry is a one of one. His talents are so rare and need to be nurtured so that one day, he can use his art to tell other children’s stories and help make a change. 

  • $30 supports Henry with healthy meals and clothes for 3 months.
  • $50 can educate Henry for a 3 month school term. 

Be sure to make your ask in the most direct way possible and you’ll be on your way to securing funds for your cause! 

Crafting the perfect fundraising email can be hectic but be sure to make your content memorable and relatable, use visuals and strong CTAs, and reach the right audience. If you do all of these things consistently, you’ll set your fundraising strategy up for success. 

Try out these strategies for yourself and tell your story!

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+1(213) 674-9869

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+44 7956 989809‬

Uganda Office

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USA Office

9385 12th Ave Sw seattle, wa 98106
+1(213) 674-9869

UK Office

12 Mill Square Portstewart BT55 7TB Northern Ireland
+44 7956 989809‬

Uganda Office

Lungujja, Kampala along Kalema Road
+256 784 239 786‬


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