The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

E-mail Subject Lines Your Readers Can't Resist

Excerpt from Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide: 7 Steps to Better Email Fundraising & Communications

How many times have you decided to read an e-mail (or not) based on the subject line alone? The subject line is your first chance to make an impression. Pack your subject lines with details about what's inside, emphasizing why the reader should take a few extra seconds to see what's in the body of the message.

  • Change it every time. Your subject line should change with every edition. Don't waste space with dates, edition numbers, sender information, etc.
  • Lean toward personal value. For example, "Where Your Best Friends Will Be Dancing All Night Long" will work better than "Register for Our All-Night Dance-a-thon Fundraiser."
  • Describe the candy, not the wrapper. Tell us what goodies are inside the e-mail, not about the packaging. Forgo wrappers like "Parenting Workshops" when your readers are craving candy like "Dinnertime and Bedtime Routines That Preserve Your Sanity."
  • Keep it short. Somewhere around 35 characters seems to be the ideal now. You can play with subject line length and see what works for you, but do try to keep it between 20 and 60 characters tops.

Before an e-mail can be read, it has to be opened. Make your subject line so irresistible, your supporters won't be able to help themselves.

Download the full guide

Kivi Leroux Miller
© 2009, Network for Good. Excerpted from Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide: 7 Steps to Better Email Fundraising & Communications. Excerpted with permission of Network for Good.

Kivi Leroux Miller is president of EcoScribe Communications and Nonprofit Marketing As a communications consultant, she has helped dozens of nonprofits across the United States, both large and small, communicate more effectively in print and online with their donors, volunteers, and others supporters.

Topics: Fundraising