Writing great emails to your supporters is important, but it’s only half the battle. First, before they can read your email and even consider donating or taking action, you need to grab their attention and spark their interest with a compelling subject line. Check out these tips for writing great subject lines that get the job done:

  1. Test: Unless you’re absolutely certain you’ll only be sending an email once, you should always test multiple subject lines. You can do this by sending an identical email to a random segment of your email community with multiple subject line variations, which most CRMs make quite easy. It’s important when testing subject lines to pick a winner based on what you actually want people to do – whether that’s donating, taking action or something else – not on the basis of open rates alone, which don’t always correlate with your priorities.
  2. Be truthful: While you can get a lot of people to open your emails by using deceptive subject lines like “the most important email you’ll receive today” or “your COVID vaccine status”, we don’t recommend it. That’s because tricking people into opening email is much more likely to generate unsubscribes and spam reports than petition signatures or donations.
  3. Signal the email’s intent: We’ve found that subject lines making clear what the email will ask the recipient to do can be quite successful. For example, in emails asking for donations you might include “donate” or “chip in” in the subject line. Or in emails asking people to sign a petition, you might use the phrase “sign the petition” or “add your name in the subject line.
  4. Be respectful: Subject lines that simply say “BREAKING” in all caps, or use similar attention-grabbing but substance-free tactics, are disrespectful of your email community and unlikely to result in good long-term results.
  5. Establish best practices: As you test different subject lines and formats, keep track of what works and what doesn’t so you can establish best practices that can be replicated, added to and improved upon over time.