The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

10 Ideas to Improve Your Nonprofit’s Email Open Rate

It’s been said many times that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

But when it comes to email, no one seems to have a problem with making a snap decision.

That’s why it’s so important your nonprofit spends time crafting a subject line that stands out.

The words you choose for your subject line can have a big impact on whether or not your subscribers will read and act on your email.

Spending a little extra time on your subject line can help you boost email open rates and result in more donations, greater event attendance, and increased awareness for your cause.

Before you hit send on your next email, here are 12 tweaks to consider:   

1. Ask a question

Why should you use questions in your subject lines? Questions are a great way to focus your readers’ attention and peak their curiosity.

Questions also feel incomplete on their own. Using a question will inspire readers to open your email in search of an answer.

How Strong Women, Strong Girls does it: “Who was Wonder Woman’s Role Model?”

Non Profit Ideas

2. Cut it down

Make sure your subject line doesn’t get cut short by keeping it under 50 characters or about five to eight words.

Your readers want to scan through their inbox quickly. Sometimes subject lines that use only a word or two can stand out and get the most engagement.

3. Include a deadline

Considering there’s no shortage of distractions standing between you and your readers, sometimes a deadline is just what you need to become a priority.

A successful promotional strategy, for an event or a fundraising campaign, will likely include a series of emails. You can send out an initial announcement, letting people know about an upcoming date. And then send a final reminder with a tight deadline to act.

Don’t be afraid to make the turnaround time as short as 24 hours. “Now or never” types of deadlines are often the most successful.

How the Manchester Animal Shelter does it: “Cruisin’ 4 Critters is August 2nd Register Today!” 

Non Profit Idea

4. Take out anything spammy 

Subject lines that are aggressively promotional are often the most likely to be marked as spam. That means you should avoid loud punctuation like all caps and multiple exclamation points, as well as overtly promotional language like “Buy now.”

If you’re using Constant Contact to create your email, you can double check that the content is in good shape for deliverability with our Spam Checker feature.

5. Try a teaser

There’s power in drawing people in with a preview, rather than giving away the punchline right at the start.

Try to think of something that will hook your readers and spark their interest.

How Pajama Program does it: “We are Thankful For…”

Non Profit Organization Ideas

6. Make an announcement 

If you have something new and exciting to share about your organization, channel that enthusiasm into your subject line. Sharing an announcement will make your email subscribers feel like they’re the first to know and will motivate them to read on for all the details.

How Alex’s Lemonade Stand does it: “ALSF Launches SuperSibs!” 

Nonprofit Ideas

7. Give a command 

Some people respond best to direct instructions. If your email has a direct call to action, like encouraging people to buy tickets for an event, don’t be afraid to let your subject line reflect that.

How United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley does it: “Join us at the MLH Scholars Luncheon!”

Ideas Non Profits

8. Be unique

To craft a good subject line you need to understand two things: who your audience is, and what your organization can offer them that they can’t get anywhere else.

Don’t be afraid to put your  name right in the subject line. Many people will open emails simply based on the sender alone, so don’t miss the chance to reinforce your specific brand.

9. Use multimedia 

Adding a video, linking to a presentation or podcast, or including a helpful guide are all great ways to make your email content varied and more engaging. So, if you’re putting in the effort and going beyond plain text emails, make sure you’re telling your contacts right from the subject line so they don’t miss out!

How Reel Works
does it: “Reel Works Kickstarter – New Video!”

Charity Ideas

10. Say something unexpected

If you want to grab someone’s attention, try saying something surprising. A little-known fact about your industry, an eyebrow-raising statistic, or just something people aren’t used to hearing can be great hooks.

Sharing something unexpected means your readers will want to read on and will also have a better chance of remembering your email later on.

Don’t rely on our advice alone. 

Take a look at your own inbox and see which emails you’ve been opening. Putting yourself in your contacts’ shoes is one of the best ways to write a subject line that will get you noticed and help your organization stand out.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

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

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