• Sarah Hegland

How Did This Email Inspire Me to Donate?


It's December! That joyous season of endless requests for donations before the end of the tax year. I’m fascinated by these. There’s something so bold about them, and I like noticing what inspires me to give and what doesn’t. I’m a small-sum donor, so I want to make sure the money I’m giving will be used well.


Last week I got an email that inspired me to donate. This organization only sends one email a year, so I always pay attention to it (email super-senders, take note!). What did they write? Here’s the rough outline:


Dear Sarah,

We had an exciting year here at this organization. We did these things:

  • Activity 1

  • Activity 2

  • Activity 3

This is a major step toward x. Together, we can work toward real justice.


Can you help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 by making a tax-deductible donation? We’ll use this money to accomplish:

  • Goal 1

  • Goal 2

  • Goal 3

In recent months:

  • This bad thing has happened

  • Also this bad thing.

Our recent campaigns confirm that with precise research and strong coalitions, we can challenge powerful institutions and bring about change. We are proud to work alongside you for justice. Change is possible, and if we work together, we can win.


Will you make a tax-deductible donation to support our research and movement-building work?


Thank you for all you do and all the ways you support social justice.

In solidarity,

John X


Reader, I donated. What worked for me? They:

  • List specific activities they’ve been doing, showing that they’re focused and effective.

  • Ask for a specific amount of money for specific activities, so I know exactly what I’m supporting.

  • Present the stakes, so I have a sense of what we're up against and what will happen if they don’t get this funding.

  • Engage me in a larger mission of building a movement for social justice. There's a sense of community and hope in it.

I felt empowered and genuinely helpful when I donated, confident that my money was going to a good place.


In contrast, these tactics don’t inspire me:

  • Vague requests that leave me feeling like my money is going into a huge gray amorphous fund for unknown activities.

  • Me donating $25, only to watch the organization spend twice that over the following year trying to persuade me to give more.

  • People who’ve been consistently cold toward me in real life, and are now asking for donations. Nah. There are plenty of warm, kind people in the world to donate to.

  • Non-specific requests that leave me doing complex mental/moral calculations about how much to donate. Make it easy for me.

  • Not being clear about how my donation would benefit both of us (not just you).

What inspires you to donate money?

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