Still stuck for subject lines for your year-end emails?
Your subject line is like your outer envelope for direct mail.
A window into your message.
Make sure it’s open enough to give a glimpse of something intriguing… urgent… exciting… emotional… shocking… funny… useful… anything compelling to grabs folks’ attention.
The more specific and to the point, the better.
NOTE: if you’re not planning a series of year-end emails — get on it NOW! If you’re sending less than 7 emails in December, you’re below the nonprofit average. You don’t want to be below average do you?
As much as a full third (33%) of December gifts occur on the 31st of the month! Last year the percentage increase in overall fundraising was 2.1%, while the increase in online fundraising was 8.9%.
If you’re not online, putting forward your most compelling fundraising offer at a time when folks are primed to give the most, you’re missing your best opportunity.
Here are some subject line techniques I particularly like, with thoughts about how you can use them to boost your year-end fundraising:
1. THE QUESTION that intrigues
Gift that Keeps Giving
“Struggling to find the perfect gift for your [significant other; parent; work colleague; friend]?”
Sometimes the perfect gift is not “stuff” but a gift that keeps on giving. One that helps people who need help… contributes towards solving an important problem… rights a wrong… or secures an important resource. Perhaps folks would like to make a gift – through your organization – in honor of a loved one.
Holiday Catalogue or Wish List
“Have you seen our perfect holiday [offer/collection/gift ideas]?”
Sometimes nonprofits have ‘Wish Lists’ or even gift catalogs (e.g., Adopt a Kitten; Sponsor a Child or see Heifer International (in fact, someone gave me a Hanukkah gift from this last night — a “flock of hope” — rather than some stuff I didn’t need). Asking folks to sponsor a specific “gift” captures their attention during the holiday season.
2. THE DEADLINE that creates urgency
“Don’t wait. Your gift before December 31st will be DOUBLED!”
Folks hate to lose out on things. So one of my favorite year-end fundraising strategies is the challenge grant. If you can get one, make sure you remind your donors repeatedly that they won’t want to miss this opportunity to leverage their money. Folks love to stretch their dollars! One of the best email subject lines for challenge grants is simply “Double Your Money.” “Don’t Miss Your Chance to Double Your Money” may be even more powerful. Research by Daniel Kahneman and others reveals that folks hate to lose even more than they love to gain. The beauty of this latter email is that it both entices with an offer of something people won’t want to miss out on and combines it with the chance to leverage their giving — a double whammy!
Chance to Make Your Tax-Deductible Gift Ends at Midnight!”
You can also create urgency by reminding folks it’s their last chance to get a year-end tax deduction. It’s not the primary reason most people give, but some people are motivated by tax savings, so this heading has its place in a year-end email series.
“Get homeless off the street before Winter cold sets in”
“Give today to provide 250 warm holiday meals”
If there’s something you do that’s particularly important at this time of year you can use this type of headline to your advantage. The weather is getting life-threatening. Your funds are about to run out and people will starve.
3. THE TEASER that compels
Kill Two Birds with One Stone
“Stress-free holiday shopping is possible at [your organization].”
“Shop in the Name of Love for [your organization]”
This is a variation of the “gift that keeps on giving” strategy. If crafted correctly, this teaser tactic works really well. What you’re doing here is helping last minute shoppers avoid the stress of braving the crowds, coming up with a perfect idea and generally wasting their money on gifts the recipient doesn’t need and probably doesn’t want. There are a number of ways to deliver on this headline: (1) You might offer up a way to shop at merchants who give your donors a discount; (2) You could offer the opportunity to make a gift in a loved one’s honor, and you’ll send a card; (3) You could create a gift catalog (the Heifer Gift Catalog may be the most notable) to help motivate your donor’s generosity (see this article for some ideas). Bottom line? Your supporters get to check a holiday gift off their list, while at the same time, they’re helping your charity.
Grab this Opportunity
“Learn how to [do something] this holiday season.”
Not every year-end email must be an ask. Sometimes it’s good to give some gifts yourself. Consider an invitation to an event or workshop or volunteer activity. Or just help people to learn something useful or interesting, like how to save a life, save the environment, teach children to read, etc. You can do this with “How To Videos,” “Tip Sheets,” “White Papers” and links to resources on your home page, Pinterest boards, Instagram feed and so forth.
4. THE ANNOUNCEMENT that triggers action now
Link to Breaking News
“3 More are Dead – Fight Back Now”
“Children Fleeing War Need Help Now”
Consider linking to something in the news that makes your work particularly relevant in this moment. For example, a Planned Parenthood agency might link their email to the announcement of the recent Colorado shootings and their aftermath.A refugee resettlement agency might link their email to unrelenting violence and the increasing climate of fear and zenophobia.
Link to Upcoming Events or Milestones
“Don’t miss our December [specials/offers/events].”
Remind folks of an upcoming opportunity, anniversary or event particular to your organization. Maybe they won’t want to miss their chance to honor someone with a tribute or memorial gift. Winning subject lines are phrased in a manner that warns folks if they don’t give right away they’re going to miss out. Psychologically, fear of loss weighs heavier than hope of gain.
Campaign Progress Report
“You can put us over the top TODAY!”
“Your gift NOW means we can help 10 more kids next year.”
When you’re really close to your goal and just need a little extra help to hit it out of the ballpark, you can use an announcement subject line that’s a variation on the ‘deadline’ subject line. It makes donors feel really good to assure you reach your goal, especially when it appears realistically attainable.
5. SECRET little tips
- Using questions marks, 3 exclamation points… and more. Check out “17 Surprising Headline Hacks to Boost Click-throughs.”
- Using emojis can boost open rates. Check out “The real scoop on email emoji in subject lines.”
- Test it. When you have two strong subject lines, consider an A/B test. Split your list in half randomly; use a different subject line for each group.
Remember: You have only a few seconds to capture attention.
- Strive for brevity and pith. Subject lines with less than 50 characters have open rates 12.5% higher than those with 50 or more, and click-through rates are 75% higher. If a lot of your emails are being opened on mobile devices, front-load the important stuff. Your reader will generally only see 30 – 40 characters.
- Also strive for personal, just not too personal. Avoid using the recipient’s name in the subject line; it’s something spammers do. Instead, use “you” and “your.”
- Use exclamation points and all caps judiciously. They’re great for emphasis, but don’t go overboard and SCREAM at folks; it tends to send your mail into spam folders.
- If you happen to use MailChimp they have a free tool to test the strength of your subject line. It even helps you pick emojis to use in your subject line — how fun is that?
Bottom line: No matter how much you’ve worked on the content of your e-appeal, it’s worthless if no one opens it.
No Email Appeal Yet?
My Anatomy of a Fundraising Appeal Guide has a sample email appeal + tips to take you through the process of crafting a compelling message lickety split. Grab it here, and may you have great year-end success!
Got Gifts? Give Thanks.
Set up your next gift strategy by really WOWING your donors with thank you’s that impress (I’m talking about much more than a pro-forma one-time transaction receipt). Check out my revised and expanded Attitude of Gratitude Donor Guide with tons of tips and tools and 60 (!) creative ways to say thanks! Get it here. All my materials come with a 100% guarantee.
Photo: Flickr, Keith Ramsey