Fundraising, Marketing

Crafting the Perfect E-Mail Subject Line

As a nonprofit organization, your fundraising email is almost equally as important as your donation page because of its ability to drive...

Written by Maggie Nugent · 3 min read >

As a nonprofit organization, your fundraising email is almost equally as important as your donation page because of its ability to drive donors to donate. But what happens if the donors and supporters to whom these emails have been targeted don’t open it? A primary reason for this could be the subject line you’ve decided to use. 

According to statistics, about 35% of those who receive your email open it purely because of the subject line. That’s a big number that shows just how important the subject line of an email can be. 

Email is one of the best methods a nonprofit can use to raise money online. This method is highly efficient because it doesn’t cost much and provides your NPO with an opportunity to stay connected to your supporter base. It’s also a great way to retain donors.  

Especially since 2020, when nonprofits were forced to move all fundraising activities online, maintaining a proper internet presence has become an incredibly important tool for fundraising and getting your message out there. To avoid any wasted effort on fundraising emails, you need to employ a strategy that makes a recipient want to open your fundraising letter the moment they see it sitting in their inbox. 

Writing a subject line that catches the attention of your recipient is built on 4 principles

  1. Show them it is urgent
  2. Create a feeling of curiosity
  3. Make it personal
  4. Make it relevant 

Show them it is Urgent

The urgency in itself is a form of curiosity. When you send an email with an urgent tone, recipients may be compelled to learn more about the situation. A subject line like “Help Texans Now” piques creates a feeling that an action must be taken immediately, even if that action is simply opening an email. Be sure to use an action word in your subject line to create that sense of urgency, like one of the following:   

  •  Change
  • Transform 
  • Intervene
  • Help
  • Give
  • Join

Writing your subject line with a tone of urgency is a strategy that has been proven to be effective in getting your recipient to react accordingly. Making donors feel that if they delay it might be too late will compel them to make a quick decision. 

Create an Atmosphere of Curiosity

One thing humans don’t like is the feeling of not knowing. Employing curiosity in your email subject line is another proven strategy in getting people to open your email. There are several ways you can use this strategy, including:

  1. Using a question that’s targeted at capturing the recipient’s attention
  2. Writing a statement that’s vague and can only become clear when they open the letter
  3.  Using an attention-grabbing statistic that the recipient will want to know more about

Some articles will suggest the strategy of leaving the subject line empty as a way to garner curiosity but be warned — empty subject lines might land your email in the spam folder. 

What makes a subject line curious? When it lacks context or complete information. Some examples:

“We thought it couldn’t be done.”

“50% of children don’t get enough of this.”

“Have you gotten your thank you gift yet?”

Make it Personal to the Recipient 

Creating a tone that makes recipients of your fundraising email feel like the letter is written specifically for them is another powerful strategy you can easily employ to get their attention. 

Personalizing the subject line of your fundraising letter is a method that can guarantee your NPO at least a 27% increase in your email open rate, as well as an overall increase in donations. 

One of the smartest ways to personalize your letter to your donors and supporters is by including the recipient’s name in the subject line. There are different ways you can do this, and one of those ways is by using a mass mailer such as Mailchimp or MassMailer.

If you don’t have the functionality to include your recipient’s name, a simpler version of this is using “you.” Although maybe not quite as powerful, it still evokes a sense of directness and personalization. A subject line like “We’ve been missing you!” will look personable and friendly in an inbox. 

Make it Relevant

Make your subject line authentic by making it relevant to the time. This is a strategy that includes using words or phrases that are essentially time reliant, such as:

  • The day of the week (“This Tuesday, do something special.”)
  • Using time-based words to create a sense of urgency (“We need to reach our goal by Friday”)
  • Employing words or phrases that refer to relevant news or events, like COVID-19, the Olympics, a protest, etc. 

By making your subject line timely and relevant, you’re piquing the interest of people by using topics that are already trending.

Additional Tips: 

  1. Use proper spelling and grammar. A sloppy subject line may make an email look like spam.
  2. Keep your subject line short. According to Campaign Monitor, having your subject line around 7 words is an effective way to make it get the proper attention. 
  3. Make your sender name meaningful. Sending an email from a “no-reply” address could easily discourage your recipients from trusting the sender. Make sure the name and address you’re using to send your emails are recognizable. 
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