[ASK AN EXPERT] A Good Email Appeal Subject Line?

Our Ask An Expert series features real questions answered by Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, our very own Fundraising Coach, also known as Charity Clairity.

Today’s question comes from a fundraiser who needs help writing a subject line for their email appeal.

Dear Charity Clairity,

I’ve got a great email appeal, but I’m completely stuck when it comes to writing a subject line. Do you have any tips or rules of thumb to help me get our email opened?

— Clueless Copywriter

Dear Clueless Copywriter,

You’re savvy to ask. 47% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone.

There are several considerations:

Length matters. Too long and they’ll get cut off, making it possible your reader will not get the gist of what the email is about (and may, therefore, ignore it). Too short may get more opens, but less click-throughs because it’s more challenging to be descriptive and actionable in four words than nine. So slightly longer subject lines may give a reader a better sense of the email’s content. A report by Retention Science found subject lines with 6 to 10 words deliver the highest open rate.

Direct subject lines outperform teasers. Most people don’t have time for cute and clever. State your purpose clearly to increase results. Use action verbs that communicate what you want your constituents to do after they’ve read your content. I like to help the donor see themselves in the role of actor, helper, savior, rescuer and hero. Some ideas:

  • Get homeless off the street before winter cold sets in” [Donor visualizes people freezing – unless they give.]
  • “Give today to provide 250 warm holiday meals” [Donor visualizes people alone and sad, without a holiday meal to share – unless they give.]
  • “Children fleeing war need your help NOW” [Donor visualizes children trapped in a war zone, maybe dead – unless they give.]
  • “Your gift today means helping 10 more kids next year.” [Donor visualizes 10 sad kids – unless they give.]
  • “Prevent Lake Louise’s water from becoming undrinkable.” [Donor visualizes polluted lake and brown water coming out of drinking faucets.]

Emotional language creates a higher response. Co-Schedule has built upon research done in the 60s and 70s by government researchers studying the roots of languages. If you haven’t yet discovered their Email Subject Line Tester, which measures the emotion quotient you’ve wrapped into your headline, I highly recommend you give it a try. 

Hope you find these clues helpful!

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Please submit your question here. Remember, there are no stupid questions! If you need an answer, it’s likely someone else does too. So help your colleagues by asking away. Please use a pseudonym, like “Clueless Copywriter” did, if you prefer to be anonymous.

Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad

Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is a fundraising visionary with 30+ years frontline development work helping organizations raise millions in support. Her award-winning blog showcases her practical approach, which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award. Claire runs “Clairification School” online, teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and is a regular contributor to Guidestar, NonProfit PRO and Maximize Social Business.
Claire Axelrad
By |2019-11-22T08:06:29-05:00November 21st, 2019|Ask An Expert|

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