All month, I've been seeing some odd email subjects trying to get me to give.

Would you open any of these?

  • An Appeal From [Nonprofit] CEO [Name]
  • It's Not Too Late for Your 2010 Tax Deduction: Support [nonprofit] Today
  • Since we are at year-end, could you re-visit your charitable giving?


I'm not a fan of any of them, but if I had to choose one, it's be the last one. This is in keeping with the nonprofit's voice so I probably would click through.

An email subject is sort of like a direct mail envelope: it's only effective if it gets you to open it.

When you do your fundraising emails this week, be very intentional with the subject. People are reading email on all sorts of devices. So I recommend keeping the subject shorter, somewhere between 35-50 characters. This way they'll "get" the subject, regardless of the size of their screen.

But some say that longer subjects actually increase clickthrough rates. (You want the email open but you're really interested in having people click-through and make a gift.) So be sure to test. If you're using a tool like AWeber.com [affiliate link], you can do split tests--sending a longer subject to half your list and a short subject to the other half. The results will help you in future email appeals.

A Simple Test

Here's a very simple way to check out your email subject. Write it out and then P.Y.I.T.S. - Put Yourself In Their Shoes.

If you were a harried professional who hasn't made a gift yet this year and has too much email, would you open this email? Really?

Don't send it out until you can answer "yes"!

Update 12/28: Just saw this email subject "Please Don't Donate to [Nonprofit]! Send Passionate Youth Musicians Instead!" I definitely opened that one!

What are some email subjects have you seen this year? Are they compelling or easy to delete?

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