Posted by Lisa Thompson

In email marketing, the subject line can make the difference between a successful and a so-so email message. It’s more than just a summary of your email; it’s actually a mini marketing message. And with so much inbox clutter these days, it’s more important than ever to create compelling subject lines that make people want to click open instead of delete.

Win supporters and engage your constituents with subject lines that scream “open me” with these six tips.

  1. Keep the email subject line short. Under 50 characters is best, or about five to seven words. Your readers typically scan through their inboxes quickly. If you can, try using subject lines with only a word or two—sometimes those can stand out the best and get the most engagement.
  2. Avoid certain words. The word “free” tends to trigger spam filters, especially in the first word of your subject line, if followed by an exclamation mark or written in all caps. Other words to avoid include “help,” “and “reminder.” If you can think of your subject line as less promotional and more about education or sharing information, that will help you avoid most of the biggest spam triggers.
  3. Ask a question. Why? Because questions are a great way to focus your readers’ attention and pique their curiosity. They also feel incomplete. Using a question will often motivate your readers to open the email in search of an answer.
  4. Create urgency. Include a deadline, if appropriate, in your subject line to make your message a high priority. A successful promotional strategy for an event or a special appeal, for example, will likely include a series of emails, including an initial announcement with an upcoming date, then a final reminder with a tight deadline to act. You can even make the turnaround time as short as 24 hours—“now or never” subject lines tend to be very effective.
  5. Give a command. Some people respond best to direct instructions. If your email has a direct call to action, like encouraging people to register for an event, let your subject line reflect that. “Register by Friday” is short, sweet and to the point, which works well with subject lines.
  6. Make an announcement. If you have something new, exciting or groundbreaking to share about your organization, channel that enthusiasm into your subject line. This will make your email subscribers feel like they’re getting the inside scoop on what’s happening with your nonprofit, and encourage them to read on for more details. “New downtown shelter now open,” for example, is a good way to entice readers to learn more.

Want more tips and advice on email marketing? It can be a very inexpensive and effective way to stay engaged with your constituents, especially if you do it well. With Firespring, you can send your email contacts personalized messages that are relevant and timely, touching base at just the right times with little effort. Learn more by calling 877.447.8941 or email