Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's all about the subject line...

It's something I hear all the time, "no one opens our emails, how do we fix it?" I have a fantastic open and click through rate for our donor relations emails, it hovers in the 40 percent range consistently. The average nonprofit gets 15-20 percent. So here's the key, it's all about those 5 or so words you place in the subject line. 

Here are some tips:
1. It's not about you, silly! A subject line should be centered around the donor, not you. An example: The President and trustees of XYZ invite you to join them...
A better option: You are invited to join ...
Notice the switch in subject. It is imperative that our communications are about the donor first, us second.

2. Keep it transparent, let them know why you are writing. If its an invitation it should say so, a holiday greeting, an ask, etc. one of the ways to do this is to send from different email aliases, donorrelations@, giving@, alumni@, etc. but also understand that if you're trying to "hide" an ask in an email, people will be perturbed by the supposed trickeroo.

3. Keep it consistent, for every piece do you have a plan for follow up, etc? Here is an example: for each event we have emails that go out, in a precise order, always the same so they know what to expect: save the date, invitation, reminder, reminder, follow up for both attendees and non attendees without exception. Having this built in advance saves us from scrambling and creates a consistent message.

4. Most people see emails as an electronic to do list, so give them something to do. Call them to action! This means that in your subject lines, avoid any form of the verb "to be" and use active verbs: join, help, empower, support, learn, respond, etc... 

5. You'll need to do some testing to see what your group responds to. We call it A/B testing. Thinking of new subject lines? Great, now take half of your list and send them one, and send the other half another and see which one outperforms the other. This testing will help you hone in on effective keywords for your population.

6. Tell your story, Examine the emails you receive from organizations, which ones do you open? The one that says: " Monthly XYZ newsletter" or one that says "Learn how XYZ changed Johnny's life" remember a powerful story is important for your messaging, and carries many times more of an impact than stats and figures.

7. Avoid showcasing your administration, instead showcase those that benefit from support. This is especially important for annual and mid level donors. They don't relate to Dean so and so or CEO or Vice President, those aren't the people they give to. They give to sick children, college students, researchers, and other beneficiaries.  Avoid titles and figureheads unless it's a communication that can come from only them.

What works for you? I would love to hear your tips and tricks to share as well. Remember it takes time to build great emails, they're not jut an afterthought. They should be a part of your strategic plan. Don't have a strategic plan yet? Join me next month during our webinar to learn how to build one from the ground up!

March 12, 2013- Building a Strategic Plan for Donor Relations Step by Step
Where do you start in the strategic planning process for donor relations? RIGHT HERE. Sign up if you’ve ever been asked to deliver a “strategic plan” for your office but don’t know where to start or if you’ve inherited one written by someone who has no idea what you do. Together we will walk through the process, and you will leave with some tangible samples to take back and begin or refresh your plan for the future. In addition, you will leave with a strategy for the future and a new outlook on the planning process. Next step, implementation!
Yearly Option, $200 for 12 webinars, Send me an email to be invoiced:


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