The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Reader question: How do I get people to open my emails?

I continue to work my way through the many great reader questions! Thanks for all of them.

Today’s question: I’d like to create copy for the subject line for emails that will encourage people to open them. Amazing Results .. Update .. News .. doesn’t seem to work well, especially when trying to reach potential donors. The space is very limited so there’s no room for an explanation of what’s in the email. Any suggestions?

Here are some ideas for better subject lines.

1. TEST: Before you send out an email blast, test two different subject lines with a smaller subset of your list. Do this always,so you get smarter all the time.

2. PERSONALIZE: Use something personally relevant to the reader to grab attention.

3. BE INTERESTING: Make your subject line oddly short, long or different. Above all, make it interesting. My friend Kivi Leroux Miller talks about bad subject lines being a wrapper (example: September Diabetes eNews) and good subject lines being the candy in the wrapper (example: 6 ways to manage your diabetes). Make it interesting, so people open the message in the first place.

4. BE FRESH: Don’t say “update” or “news” each time. Focus on what’s actually new!

5. BE BRIEF: Put key information right up front since subject lines get cut off.

6. INSTILL URGENCY: Make it clear why your email matters now — “three days left to give”

7. BANISH SPAMINESS: Run it through a content-checker, avoid all caps and shun exclamation points.

If I had to choose just one of these to convey, I would think it’s #3. My best advice for building a following is to create wonderful content and reflect it in the subject line. People open the emails they know will contain something of value. Provide that value. The rest will follow!

For further advice, I recommend Copyblogger’s tips for better email. You can find that here.

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About This Blog
Caryn Stein hi res

Caryn Stein
Vice President, Communications and Content, Network for Good

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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