Enter email subject here

I just received an email in which the subject line was “Enter email subject here”. It seemed a funny subject, but then I thought, “Silly me! It must be about email subject lines and what is and isn’t effective.”

…it turns out that the email wasn’t about that at all. It must’ve been a slip-up, but either way it inspired me and helped me to conceive of today’s topic:

Email Subject Lines.

We’re all bombarded non-stop, all-day with emails. Emails from friends, family, co-workers, companies, groupons, airlines, etc. These emails are personal, commercial, and work-related. If I had to reply to every single email that I got at either of my email addresses (1 work, 1 personal), I wouldn’t have enough hours in the day. We have to prioritize: is this urgent? Who’s this from? What does the subject line say???

If a subject line says “urgent”, I’m more likely to open it faster. If I know who it’s from and they’re important to me, I’m more likely to open it faster. If the sender is not important to me and the subject suggests it isn’t urgent, then what other factors would get me to open it?

An exciting subject line.

But that brings me to my main question: What makes an email subject exciting??? How do we “Lift our message above the torrent” in order to break through the inbox? Is it customization? If our subject is specific to the person receiving the email, are they more likely to open it? And sooner?

“Mike — you’re going to want to be at this event!”
Will that do it?

Is it conciseness? Is short & sweet the key? On top of that, does excitement come from hyperbole or flashiness?

“The Best Event of the Year!”
Is that the trick?

The truth is, I don’t know the answer. My personal strategy is usually clarity over anything else; I want to know that the person receiving the email knows what it’s about before they even open it. But I’m no subject guru; I try different approaches with different emails, but haven’t really come to find something that always works.

In fundraising, we send out a lot of emails – solicitations, invitations, newsletters… the list goes on. Can we get someone to make a gift with a flashy subject line? I think we can, I just don’t yet know how.

What do you think??? Share your tips & tricks when it comes to email subject lines by commenting below.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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