Brewer Direct

“I had no idea… emails with minimal design can have maximum effect!”

This tip helps you make your emails look more authentic and personal.

“I had no idea… emails with minimal design can have maximum effect!”


Everyone loves email. But according to a recent article from Litmus, only 44% of nonprofit email marketers say their email program is successful. 

Bummer, right? But there are many reasons for this, which range from nonprofits having fewer employees dedicated to producing/sending emails, to much smaller budgets that are prohibitive when it comes to sophisticated design and testing to improve outreach and results.




You wouldn’t think that a plain email, without any eye-catching graphics or formatting, would produce higher results. Yet, a lot of the research being done right now on email optimization is finding that plain-text emails are winning the battle of the inbox when it comes to getting donations.


  1. More of these emails get delivered – they’re not flagged as spam. 
  2. More of these emails, when opened, don’t require downloading the graphics in the header – which often contains the headline, offer and a CTA/donate button.
  3. More of these emails get read – they don’t scream, “This is marketing!”


Another bonus? These emails also have strong click-through rates! 

NextAfter’s Nathan Hill notes that in a test they ran for CaringBridge (a nonprofit health organization), removing the big image, the logo header, the CTA button and the designed footer – plus making the copy warmer and more conversational – led to a 32.5% increase in clicks. 

Plain-text emails help the reader get down to business… aka, reading the content of your email. 

Think about the emails you send to your friends, family and even colleagues. They’re devoid of formatting, or a lot of HTML coding. And that’s OK because you don’t care about the formatting. You care about the content. 

The same is true of fundraising emails! A simpler approach feels more authentic and personal, and thus, has a better chance of creating an emotional response. And when surrounded by copy, a bolded or underlined link to your donation page draws a lot of attention – and leads to higher click and response rates. 

As Nathan Hill says, “Emails that look and sound like they’re from a real human being tend to crush it.” 

Of course, there are some cases where this plain-text approach might be less powerful. A compelling photo or some other image that strengthens or reinforces your offer is usually the better choice. It’s important to assess your resources – copy, images and design/production time – in order to make the best decision for each of your email campaigns. 

Here at Brewer Direct, we’ve already begun testing these plain-text emails and plan to test even more against our control emails in the coming months. We never want to assume that what works for one industry or donor profile works across the board – and as such, more testing is crucial to see where these emails produce the biggest lift in donations for our clients.  

So as you think about your email program, it’s time to consider simplifying the look of your emails. Plain-text emails can ensure more of your content makes it past spam filters, can increase your open and click-through rates, and can create a more authentic and emotional experience for your readers.

Want more? For this month’s “Need to Read” on the one thing you most need to know about fundraising, click here.

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