Jul 23, 2009

Email Subject Lines Need Attention, Too

Have I not ranted about this yet? Or maybe I have, but I'm still continually surprised at how often nonprofits compose a nice email and then put no thought into giving it a subject line that will make people want to open it.

Just like with mailed fundraising appeals, email readers are looking for an excuse to ignore the message. We're all swamped with email even if we receive nothing but spam! A  less than compelling subject line provides the perfect excuse to zap your email into cyber-eternity.

The worst entry lines I've seen are simply inexplicable -- using mysterious or nonsubtsantive words like, "signs" or simply the organization's acronym. Others title their emails like distress telegrams: "Donations down," or "Help, need more money." It takes a pretty committed donor to not run from that one.

A better approach? As with all types of fundraising, it's to keep people's eyes on the goal; with intriguing subject lines like, "New program close to launch," or "We did it!" Then you can share the hopeful part of your news or plans -- but explain what funding or other help you need to complete or continue similar efforts. You don't have to believe me -- divide your donors into two groups and give it a try.