When a new supporter subscribes to your nonprofit’s email newsletter, the ideal situation is that they one day (preferably soon) become a donor — right? What if you could speed up that process and begin transforming subscribers into donors without even thinking about it?

Well, sending emails for fundraising is a whole lot easier when the process is automated.

And automated email workflows are not difficult to create or set up when you use the right platform. (We like Mailchimp.) All it takes is a little time up-front to see new donors begin rolling in off of your subscriber lists.

Benefits of Automated Emails for Fundraising

Newcomers to your email list have already expressed interest in your nonprofit by signing up for your newsletter. Take advantage of this and save yourself some time in the process. There are lots of benefits to automating fundraising emails, including:

Building a Better Donor Email Workflow

To get started, let’s walk through some common questions we hear all the time about building an automated email workflow that transforms new subscribers into faithful donors.

What should the trigger be?

For the purposes of this post, the trigger will be signing up for a newsletter. It’s typically a good entry point to capture new supporters. And, if you have a list of donors within your email service (which we’d highly recommend), you’ll want to exclude those folks from this workflow.

How many emails should it include?

Start with between four and five emails spaced out over a period of months. If you have a lot to fill new supporters in on, you can make the email workflow a little longer, but don’t cut it short. Sending fewer than four emails could make your first donation ask come a bit too abruptly.

Hi, thanks for joining us. *Next day* I know you just got here, but money now please. No one wants to feel like they’re being taken advantage of. Besides, your supporters will be much more likely to respond to donation requests once they know more about how your organization helps the community.

How do I work toward the end goal of a donation?

Each email should only have one goal and one strong call to action toward that goal. The end goal of each email should build toward donations, but not begin there. Again, don’t overwhelm new subscribers with a donation ask right off the bat. Instead, move toward your first ask by welcoming them, educating about your organization and impact, inviting them to get more involved, to finally asking for donations.

For example, the progression of goals might be:

  • Get to know our organization
  • Read a powerful impact story
  • Join us for an upcoming event
  • Support our mission

What content should I include?

Your content should be aimed at people that are new to your organization and follow a logical progression of knowledge, showing them who you are, what you do, and finally how they can help. Email content ideas could include powerful stories, impact statistics, inspirational and mission-based content, information on where donations go, and explanations of the need you serve. 

You can even re-purpose content from other channels, like your blog or website. Try to use a tone of voice that matches your other content and marketing, and that is friendly and approachable for new supporters.

How do I set it up?

Use your email service provider, like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, to create an ongoing email campaign. Within the Automation section of your account, you’ll create a new workflow and designate the trigger for the first email in the sequence that we discussed earlier and then build out each of the following emails using time as a trigger. For example, the second email may be triggered to send five days after the first email is opened.

Fundraising Email Workflow Template

Steal this easy-to-use template and customize it with your nonprofit’s mission, goals, stories and stats. Ready to create an email workflow that transforms new subscribers into loyal, long-term donors? Download the template to get started.

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Keeping Up With Your Workflows

Once you have a few workflows set up in your email service, it can be easy to forget that they exist and move on with your marketing plans. But, while it’s true that an automated workflow can save you and your team a ton of time, taking the “set it and forget it” approach would be a mistake.

How often should I check on my workflows?

Try to re-visit your email workflow at least every three months and more often if opportunities to promote timely campaigns arise and pass, like Giving Tuesday or an upcoming gala. You’ll want to look at:

  • Content: Is there anything that can be improved? Should we replace any promotions with something more timely? Do we have new content to add, like impact statistics or client stories?
  • Function: Is the workflow actively sending and working as you’d expect?
  • Results: Review the general performance to see what can be tweaked. For example a lower open rate for a particular email could require a subject line adjustment.

How do I know if it’s working?

While the data that’s available to you may be different depending on your email service provider and plan, you should be able to look at a few key data points.

  • Email open rate: A low open rate could mean adjusting the subject line or From name and email to be more personal.
  • Click through rate: Fewer clicks means that your call to action, and potentially the accompanying content, isn’t as strong as it could be. Or you could be overwhelming people with multiple asks.
  • Unsubscribes: You may have too many emails in your workflow, or they’re timed too closely together. This could also be a signal to adjust the content to be more approachable for new supporters.

While looking at the general performance is great and can help you continuously improve your workflows, the main goal of these emails for fundraising is donations. But tracking donations that resulted directly from a specific email is slightly more complicated. If you use Google Analytics, I’d suggest setting up a custom campaign URL to separate donations through this workflow from general donations from other emails your organization may be sending.

The benefits of a donor email workflow can be huge for your nonprofit (and your personal capacity), but they do take strategy to pull off. You know your audience and their typical paths from email subscriber to donor. Use these emails to help guide them along and keep them engaged with your organization. And don’t forget to revisit them on a regular basis for tweaks and improvements!

How do you use emails for fundraising? Have you experimented with automated email workflows to increase donations? We’d love to hear about your experiences.


  1. I need support to my organization we don’t have enough money to grow up but l joined your site for long time now but is not working

    • Thanks for reaching out, Valema. I’m really sorry to hear that your organization is struggling with fundraising. What resources have you used on our website that weren’t a great fit for your audience? What digital fundraising tactics are you using to capture people’s attention and inspire them to give? Once I know a little more about your audience and what you’re currently doing, I can try to offer more helpful feedback.