Last Updated:

September 14, 2023

A Comprehensive Guide for Cold Email Fundraising [+Templates]


Instrumentl team



September 14, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of nonprofit fundraising, cold email campaigns stand the test of time as a powerful tool to generate support and financial resources.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps of cold email fundraising, divulging the secrets of a successful cold email and offering practical tips to improve your open and click-through rates.

Additionally, we will provide cold email fundraising templates specifically tailored for nonprofits. By leveraging the insights, templates, and tools in this guide, you can unlock the full potential of cold email fundraising and ensure a bright future for your nonprofit organization.

Let’s get started!

10 Ready-to-Use Cold Email Templates That Break The Ice With Funders

Cold Email Fundraising for Nonprofits


Fundraising forms the foundation of many nonprofit operations, and in this digital age, cold email fundraising has emerged as a powerful strategy to reach potential donors.

When executed correctly, cold emailing can expand your donor base and significantly boost your fundraising efforts.

What Is Cold Email Fundraising?

Cold email fundraising is a strategy that involves reaching out to potential donors for the first time via email, with no prior relationship or interaction. This method is akin to cold calling but with the advantage of being less intrusive and allowing the recipient to respond at their convenience.

While cold email fundraising is often used to solicit donations, it is also a powerful tool for other purposes. In the nonprofit sector, these emails can serve as an initial outreach to potential partners, volunteers, or advocates for your cause. Cold emails can be an effective medium for inviting individuals or organizations to participate in your events, contribute their skills to your projects, or engage in collaborative partnerships.

A successful cold email fundraising campaign hinges on crafting a compelling, personalized message that clearly communicates the nonprofit's mission and the impact of a potential donation or partnership.

Why Is it Crucial for Nonprofit Success?

Cold email fundraising is vital to nonprofits for several reasons. Firstly, it allows organizations to expand their donor base by reaching out to individuals who were previously unaware of their cause.

Secondly, it's a cost-effective strategy that requires minimal investment compared to traditional fundraising methods, making it particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized nonprofits.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, cold email fundraising leverages the power of digital communication to quickly and effectively convey an organization's story, mission, and needs.

Setting the Stage: Pre-email Fundraising Considerations

Target Audience

Before diving into the mechanics of writing your own cold email fundraising templates, it's important to understand the pre-email considerations that lay the groundwork for a successful campaign.

These initial steps ensure your message is sent to the right audience, at the right time, and with the right intent.

Understanding Your Audience

Before you commence with cold email fundraising, you must understand who you're reaching out to.

Understanding your audience means not just knowing their demographics, but also their interests, behaviors, and motivations. This information can help you tailor your outreach strategy to effectively engage different segments of your audience.

For instance, if you're a nonprofit organization focused on environmental conservation, your potential donors could be passionate about nature, sustainability, or combating climate change. To identify these individuals, you might consider looking at online communities, groups, or forums related to these topics.

Alternatively, you could target people who have shown support for similar causes in the past. This could be through prior donations, volunteering, or even social media activity. Tools like Google Analytics, social media insights, and customer relationship management (CRM) software can provide valuable data to help identify these potential donors.

Gathering as much information about your potential donors as possible is crucial—their interests, social demographics, philanthropic activity, and the causes they care about. This knowledge will allow you to tailor your cold email campaign and make it resonate with your target audience.

Setting Clear Fundraising Goals

Clarity in setting fundraising goals is another important preparatory step. Defining clear, achievable goals gives direction to your cold email campaign.

These goals can span a wide range, from raising a certain amount of funds to expanding your donor base by a specific percentage. Having tangible targets not only makes it easier to track your progress and measure your campaign's effectiveness but it also guides you in determining the donation amounts to request in your emails.

If you have a clear picture of your overall fundraising target, you can more accurately estimate the contribution needed from each potential donor, making your ask more focused and realistic. This clarity can increase the likelihood of positive responses and successful fundraising.

Each email should clearly outline what the funds will be used for and the impact of the potential donation. This transparency not only enhances your organization's credibility but also helps increase donor engagement and commitment.

Establishing the Value Proposition of Your Nonprofit

Lastly, before you start crafting your cold emails, it's necessary to articulate the unique value proposition (why your organization is important) of your nonprofit.

What sets your organization apart? Why should donors contribute to your cause over others? Answering these questions and showcasing your nonprofit's unique impact can make your cold fundraising email more persuasive.

Remember, people donate to causes they feel connected to and believe can make a difference. Make sure your value proposition communicates that effectively.

You can check out this article for inspiration on how to communicate your nonprofit’s mission, impact, and story.

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Crafting the Perfect Cold Fundraising Email: Essential Elements


In this section, we'll explore the key elements that make up an effective cold fundraising email. These components, when artfully woven together, can significantly improve the success of your cold email fundraising campaign.

Starting with a Captivating Subject Line

The subject line is essentially the first impression of your email. It's critical to create an engaging, intriguing subject that piques the recipient's interest and prompts them to open the email.

A successful subject line should be concise yet impactful, clearly indicating the purpose of your email. Personalizing the subject line with the recipient's name or a relevant detail can also increase open rates. Most email campaign platforms, like MailChimp, offer "tags" to help you automatically customize your subject lines.

Here are three examples of compelling subject lines that can be used for a cold email fundraising campaign:

  1. "Help Make a Difference in [Recipient's City]: Join Us in Our Mission"
  2. "[Recipient's Name], Your Contribution Can Change Lives"
  3. "Take Part in Our Journey to Create a Better World"

While it's important to be creative, refrain from making false promises or using clickbait tactics, as these could harm your credibility. Additionally, avoid using too many emojis or all capital letters, as this could send your campaigns to spam folders.

Personalizing the Introduction

Once opened, a personalized introduction can make the recipient feel valued and acknowledged. Use the recipient's name and, if possible, include a relevant detail that shows you've done your research about them.

This could be a reference to their past philanthropic activities, their connection to the cause you're advocating for, or their potential interest in your mission. Remember to aim for a balance between personalization and respect for the recipient's privacy.

Illustrating the Impact of Donations

It's essential to show potential donors exactly how their contribution will be used and the difference it will make. Concrete examples, statistics, or stories can effectively illustrate the impact of their donation.

Instead of a vague assertion such as "your donation will help us," try to be specific. For instance, "Your donation of $50 can provide a week's worth of meals for a family in need" is much more persuasive.

This specificity makes the request tangible and allows the potential donor to visualize the difference they can make.

Making a Clear, Specific Ask

Be clear and specific about what you're asking for. Avoid vague requests or assumptions that the recipient will understand what you want. Rather, clearly state the purpose of your email, the amount you're seeking, and how the funds will be used.

If possible, provide multiple donation options. This allows potential donors to choose an amount that fits their budget, increasing the likelihood of them contributing.

Including Compelling Visuals or Stories

Visuals or stories can be a powerful tool to enhance your message and evoke emotion. Pictures, infographics, or videos that portray your nonprofit's work and the beneficiaries of donations can make your request more compelling.

Stories about individuals who have benefited from past donations can also help illustrate the impact of contributions. These elements humanize your cause and enable potential donors to connect emotionally, increasing the likelihood of their support.

One noteworthy example of a nonprofit that effectively utilizes the principles of cold email fundraising is Charity: Water. Their emails and marketing material often include compelling stories and visuals that showcase their work and the impact of donations.

They clearly illustrate how a donor's contribution can bring clean, safe drinking water to communities across the globe. Their emails also offer a clear, specific ask, providing multiple donation options to suit various donor budgets. Through these practices, Charity: Water consistently achieves successful email fundraising campaigns.

Cold Fundraising Email Tips for Enhanced Responses


Now that we've explored the basic elements of an effective cold fundraising email, let's look further into some strategic cold fundraising email tips that can significantly enhance the response rates of your cold email fundraising campaigns.

These strategies can be instrumental in fostering donor engagement and maximizing your fundraising efforts.

Best Practices for Email Length and Format

When it comes to cold fundraising emails, it's important to strike a balance between providing enough detail to engage the reader and maintaining a concise, readable length.

As a rule of thumb, aim for an email length of around 50 to 125 words. Long enough to communicate your message but short enough to be easily digestible.

Format your email in short paragraphs or bullet points for easy reading. Be sure to include a clear and compelling call to action.

Remember, your email should be easy to scan: use subheadings, bold or italic fonts for emphasis, and ensure your call to action stands out. Additionally, including a clear, prominent "Donate" button in your email is essential. This button should be visually striking and easy to find, typically situated near the end of the email or in the call to action.

When recipients click on this button, they should be taken directly to a simple, user-friendly donation page. This eliminates any potential confusion or extra steps for the donor, making it more likely that they will complete their donation.

The Importance of Follow-Up Emails

Follow-up emails play a significant role in successful cold email fundraising. Not everyone will respond to your initial email, and that's okay. Or, sometimes, they just forget to respond to your emails (we've all been there).

A well-crafted follow-up email serves as a gentle reminder of your cause and can increase the likelihood of a response. These emails should be tactful and respectful, acknowledging the busy schedules of potential donors.

It's also a chance to provide additional information or updates about your cause. A series of 2-3 follow-up emails, sent at appropriate intervals, can significantly boost your fundraising campaign results. Space them out over 2-4 days each, never the day after a send.

Using A/B Testing to Optimize Your Approach

A/B Testing can be an effective tool to optimize your cold email fundraising campaigns. It involves sending two versions of an email, each with a different element like the subject line, email content, or call-to-action, to see which performs better.

These tests can give you valuable insights into what resonates most with your audience, allowing you to tailor your future emails accordingly. By continuously testing and refining your emails based on data-driven feedback, you can enhance both your open rates and conversion rates, driving more successful fundraising campaigns.

Sample Cold Call Email for Nonprofit Fundraising


Now that we've explored the essential components and strategies of successful cold email fundraising, let's look at some examples of cold email fundraising templates. These templates offer a starting point for crafting your own compelling fundraising emails.

Sample Email 1 - Empower Children's Education

Subject: Make a Difference Today for Children in Need

Dear [Recipient's Name],

Did you know that $50 can provide educational materials to a child in need for an entire semester? At [Your Nonprofit's Name], we're committed to transforming lives through education, and we need your support. Your generous donation will make a profound difference. We truly believe in the power of collective effort, and together, we can achieve our mission.

Please click the "Donate Now" button below to contribute. Thank you for considering a gift to [Your Nonprofit's Name]. Together, we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive.


[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Your Nonprofit's Name]

[Donate Now Button]

Sample Email 2 - Join The Fight

Subject: Join Us in Fighting Hunger in [City or Country]

Hello [Recipient's Name],

I'm reaching out from [Your Nonprofit's Name], where we're striving to combat hunger in [City or Country]. With just $30, you can provide a month's worth of meals for a family. Your contribution can be a lifeline for those struggling to put food on the table. Will you consider donating to our cause?

Click the "Donate Now" button below to join us in our fight against hunger. We appreciate your generous spirit and dedication to making a difference in our community. Thank you, and we look forward to your continued support.

Best Wishes,

[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Your Nonprofit's Name]

[Donate Now Button]

Sample Email 3 - Uniting for Clean Water

Subject: Let's Stand Together for Clean Water

Hi [Recipient's Name],

My name is [Your Name] from [Your Nonprofit's Name]. I'm writing to invite you to join our cause in providing clean, safe drinking water to communities in need. A donation of $100 can equip a whole community with a water filtration system, safeguarding them from waterborne diseases. Will you stand with us and make a lasting impact on these communities?

Click the "Donate Now" button below to stand with us in our mission. Your support is more than a donation; it's a beacon of hope for those lacking access to clean water. Thank you for your generosity and for being a part of this vital cause.

Best Regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Your Nonprofit's Name]

[Donate Now Button]

Sample Cold Call Email to Set Up a Meeting for Nonprofit Fundraising


When you're looking to take the conversation off the computer screen and into a face-to-face meeting, your cold email needs to motivate the recipient to take the next step.

Here are three cold email fundraising templates to use to set up a meeting with a donor.

Sample Email 1 - Asking For A Formal Meeting

Subject: [Your Nonprofit's Name]: Request for a Meeting

Hello [Recipient's Name],

My name is [Your Name], and I am from [Your Nonprofit's Name]. I would love to schedule a meeting with you to discuss our mission and our current initiatives.

It will provide us the opportunity to share why our work is so important and give us the chance to better understand your philanthropic interests. Please let me know a time that works for you.

I truly believe we could foster a mutually beneficial relationship and make a significant impact together. We greatly appreciate your consideration and look forward to potentially partnering with you to further our cause. Thank you for your time, and we hope to speak with you soon.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Your Nonprofit's Name]

Sample Email 2 - Invite To A Casual Coffee

Subject: Discussing [Nonprofit's Cause] Over Coffee?

Dear [Recipient's Name],

I'm [Your Name], and I represent [Your Nonprofit's Name]. Our paths have not yet crossed, and I thought it would be beneficial for us to meet and discuss our work on [Nonprofit's Cause].

Our organization has been making a significant impact in this area, and we're seeking supporters who share our passion. I would love to arrange a meeting at your convenience. When would be a good time for you?

Looking forward to exploring the possibility of your support and showing you how your contributions can make a real, lasting difference. Please let me know a date and time that works best for you. Thank you for considering this meeting and, more importantly, for your commitment to making a difference.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Your Nonprofit's Name]

Sample Email 3 - Exploring A Collaboration

Subject: Invitation to Discuss [Your Nonprofit's Cause]

Hello [Recipient's Name],

I'm [Your Name] from [Your Nonprofit's Name]. Our mission has always been to [describe mission], and I think our work aligns with your evident commitment to [reiterate their interests/mission]. I would like to schedule a meeting to discuss potential collaboration opportunities. Could you let me know when you're available?

Best regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Your Nonprofit's Name]

When crafting these types of emails, keeping your tone professional yet personable is crucial. Ensure you position your organization and its mission early in the email to establish relevance.

Finally, your call-to-action should be clear, compelling, and easy for the recipient to follow through on—asking for a meeting and suggesting they provide times that work for them is a simple but effective way to do this.

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Overcoming Challenges in Cold Email Fundraising


As with any fundraising strategy, cold email fundraising has its own set of challenges. However, understanding these obstacles and knowing how to navigate them can significantly increase your chances of success.

Handling Rejection or No Response

It's essential to understand that rejection or lack of response is common in cold email fundraising. Don't be disheartened when a recipient does not reply or turns down your request.

Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Ask for feedback whenever possible, as this can provide valuable insights for future campaigns.

Remember, your aim isn't just to get a donation but to build a long-term relationship with potential donors.

Ensuring Your Emails Don't End Up in the Spam Folder

One of the major challenges of cold email fundraising is ensuring your emails don't end up in the recipient's spam folder. To prevent this, make sure your emails are personalized and do not sound like spam. As we said earlier in this post, avoid using all caps or excessive exclamation marks in your subject line or body text, as this can trigger spam filters.

Moreover, always check that your emails comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, which includes requirements like providing a clear way for recipients to opt out of receiving future emails.

Building Relationships Beyond the First Email

Cold email fundraising is not just about sending a one-time email and expecting a donation. It's about nurturing relationships with potential donors over time.

After the first email, follow up respectfully and consistently, providing updates about your cause, inviting them to events, or sharing stories of impact. Be sure to send these folks your end-of-year fundraising campaigns as well.

Remember to thank donors promptly and sincerely when they do donate, fostering a positive relationship that encourages future support.

Wrapping Up: The Next Steps


To recap, cold email fundraising can be an effective tool for nonprofits if used correctly. Understanding your audience, crafting compelling subject lines and emails, and carefully following up are essential to building long-term relationships.

Challenges may arise, such as handling rejection and ensuring your emails don't land in the spam folder, but with persistence and the right strategies, you can overcome these and achieve success.

Most importantly, remember that cold email fundraising is about more than just raising funds—it's about connecting with people who care about your cause and fostering relationships that last. Use the above cold email fundraising templates as your starting point.

For more tips and resources on nonprofit fundraising, check out our blog on Instrumentl. We regularly post helpful articles that can equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to make your fundraising efforts more effective.

Instrumentl team

Instrumentl is the all-in-one grant management tool for nonprofits and consultants who want to find and win more grants without the stress of juggling grant work through disparate tools and sticky notes.

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