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Our Top 10 Email Subject Lines

In the world of email subject lines you only get one chance to make a first impression. A mere minute to tempt your reader. We recently took a look back at our top 10 performing subject lines to see what sets them apart & share some insights we learned along the way.

Lesson 1: Size Matters
A good rule of thumb is to keep it short. Short subject lines are often the most effective. Keep the subject lines in the 3-5 word range or under 50 characters.

Lesson 2: Know Your Audience
Think about your list. Who exactly are you emailing? Do these folks already have a relationship with your organization? If so, try to incorporate that connection into your subject line. For example, we have many donors who gave on our site because of Stephen Colbert (he’s on our board too!). When we communicate with this group we try to work in a Colbert shout-out in the subject line to grab their attention. If you’re cold-emailing or sending to new subscribers, a catchy subject line is the way to go. Keep it vague and slightly mysterious to give readers that extra nudge (there’s a reason why “Cake, anyone?” was one of our most-opened emails).

Lesson 3: Opening an Email vs. Opening Your Wallet
Remember those vague & mysterious subject lines? They may get a lot of opens, but don’t always inspire donations (and that’s okay!). Have a goal on what you want your email subject line to accomplish. Is it high readership, or do you want folks to take action? Adjust accordingly.

Lesson 4: Get Inspired
Discover how other organizations use subject lines and keep it fresh. Sign up for as many email newsletters as you can and monitor on a weekly basis. Notice how marketers use holidays and personalization to reach their consumer base (personal faves for subject lines are LearnVest & Obama for America).

Without further adue, here are our top 10 subject lines of all time!
10. Colbert in paint
9.  Hey Reddit! Thanks!
8.  A memorable image
7.  They lost everything
6.  Happy birthday from
5.  Two of your friends
4.  Your new best friend
3.  Help us thank %%Teacher Name%% (the teacher donor had supported in the past)
2.  For tax filing: Your 2011 giving from
1. Cake, Anyone?


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