{Video} How Nonprofits Can Avoid Sleepy Subject Lines

Today we’re talking about email subject lines. Just think about how you use your email—which emails you decide to open and which that, in that flurry when you wake up in the morning and go through your iPhone, you tap tap tap and delete delete delete. Those messages are never read. They’re never even seen. What makes you open an email?

email subject linesMore importantly, how do you get people to open your emails?

Familiarity and Subject Line

I’d be willing to bet that a large portion of it is familiarity. If it’s a list that people have signed up for, if it’s something that they’ve requested, they’re more likely to open that email.

Number two, I would say, is the subject line. That is how a person determines if that e-mail has value and if it’s worth his or her limited amount of time to open and read it.

Today we’re going to discuss how to write excellent email subject lines for your nonprofit that will help you get more opens and action on your emails. Some of these tips may be a little old hat, but they’re absolutely worth revisiting.

Tip #1: Keep it under 50 characters

If your subject line is much longer than that, there’s a very good chance that the majority of e-mail clients out there will truncate it. What’s the point of writing a great subject line of nobody sees the majority of it? If you can’t fit it in the first 50 characters, then go back to the drawing board.

Tip #2: Know what to avoid

Some of these could go without saying, but they are just too important to not be said. You simply can’t use words like “free” or “no cost” in email subjects lines. No one will trust it. Also, you can never write in all caps. In fact, I’d advise you to experiment with no capitalization at all—this can give off that casual, friendly “I’m in a hurry but I really, really need to tell you something quickly” tone.

Tip #3: Create a mystery

This is one of my favorite tips for writing a great e-mail subject line that gets a great open rate and great response rate. The more you can entice somebody by making him or her think and wonder, “Oh well, maybe I do want to find that out,” the better you’ll do at creating a mystery around what you’re trying to sell.

Don’t Do This Do This Instead
“Live Green Community Newsletter, Vol. 3” “How to Live Green on a Limited Budget”
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“Sign up now for a our community fundraiser” “Want to hang out with your neighbors and friends?”
“Act soon for your free guide to energy consumption” “5 ways you can conserve energy today”

Tip #4: Be relevant and use language your audience will understand

Your audience should be able to understand your subject line. In order to do this, you will need to make sure you are properly segmenting your list.

The subject line should also be relevant to the content inside. I know that is really basic, but think of this way: The worst subject lines tell what’s inside while the best subject lines sell what’s inside. The more you can tell me exactly what I’m going to get if I open or read your email, the more likely I’m going to respond. If you’re properly segmenting your list, then you should be communicating in a highly individualized way. That’s going to help you with your open rate.