What’s The Difference Between A Cultivation Email and A Solicitation Email?

Did you know email is a main driver of online revenue for nonprofits? If not, now you do! Knowing how important email is doesn’t mean you know what kind of emails you should be sending, however. After all, there are welcome emails, thank you emails, emails around campaigns like Giving Tuesday—the list goes on.

We know it can be difficult to figure out why you should be contacting people and what you should be asking them to do. To simplify things, we’re going to focus on two categories of emails in this blog post: cultivation emails and solicitation emails.

The Difference Between Cultivation & Solicitation Emails

In The State of Nonprofit Email Cultivation, a free research report analyzing how 199 nonprofits communicate with subscribers and donors in the first 45 days, the NextAfter team explains cultivation emails this way:

“…an email like a story, newsletter, update, video, etc. It could ask you to take an action like volunteer, sign a petition, or advocate for the organization in some way other than donating.”


Whereas a solicitation email serves a different purpose:

“(In a solicitation email) the main purpose of this email is to get you to do something tied to money like donate, purchase a product, or fundraise.”


Now that you know the basic difference between the two, you should have a better understanding of what counts as a cultivation email or a solicitation email. To make things even easier, the NextAfter team included some examples:

Cultivation Emails:

  • newsletter
  • offer (course, EBook, download)
  • blog/article
  • survey/feedback
  • accomplishments/impact/report/story
  • advocacy/sign petition
  • volunteer

Solicitation Emails:

  • one-time donation
  • recurring donation
  • eCommerce
  • peer-to-peer/start a fundraiser
  • Why is this important to know?

    When you know what kind of emails you’re sending, you can look to see if your content is balanced. You don’t want to be sending significantly more cultivation emails than solicitation emails or vice versa.

    What should you do now?

    Take a look at all the emails you’ve sent during the first 45 days of contacting a donor or subscriber. How many were cultivation emails? How many were solicitation emails? The research report found that donors got cultivated less and solicited more than subscribers. Is there an imbalance with the types of emails you’re sending? If so, think about how you can achieve more balance.

    We hope this overview of cultivation and solicitation emails has been helpful! To learn more, check out the free research report here.