7 E-mail Subject Line Best Practices to Avoid the Spam and Trash Folders
Every week, if not every day, it seems as though another new channel or innovation crops up and creates a frenzy in the fundraising world. Between video, social media, mobile and other technological advances, it's easy to forget about boring, old e-mail.
However, ignoring this relatively cheap, effective channel is a mistake. People still check their e-mail religiously and respond … if they actually open the e-mail, that is. That's what makes the subject line so vital.
In a recent Fast15, "E-mail, Mobile, Web and More! 30 Tips in 15 Minutes," FundRaising Success Editor-in-Chief Margaret Battistelli Gardner and I discussed e-mail best practices, including these seven tips for e-mail subject lines that get donors to click through and make gifts.
1. Limit it to 25-35 characters
Some figures suggest that open rates can drop as much as 5 percent when subject lines are too long. People don't like seeing a long message sitting in their inboxes, especially when it's so long they cannot even view the whole thing on their screens. It's best to limit the subject line to 25-35 characters, and never go beyond 50 characters at the most.
2. Avoid symbols like dollar signs and exclamation points
Symbols can cause confusion in a subject line, and some recipients may flag the e-mail as spam. Plus, some symbols and special characters may not display properly on all devices or e-mail providers.
In addition, avoid using all caps as well. Using all caps is the equivalent of shouting online, and no one really wants to be shouted at no matter how important the cause. Avoid using all caps in the body of the e-mail as well.
3. Personalize whenever possible
Personalization is a best practice in all forms of fundraising, and e-mail is no exception. Using tactics such as state or city names let donors know you actually know where they are from. Personalization also gives the impression that recipients must open the e-mail because it's relevant to them.
4. Avoid words that trigger spam filters
You can't get people to click on your e-mail if it gets flagged as spam. Avoid words that trigger spam filters such as free, buy and earn — even reminder. Also, avoid sales speak and cheesy phrases. They can signal spam to recipients, even if the spam filters don't flag those messages.
5. Keep it short and simple
People are time-crunched, and they don't want to waste their time trying to decipher messages — especially online. Let them know what your e-mail is about up front. Give them a clue as to why they should open your e-mail. Use colons to keep it short and get the message across right away — for example, "African Drought: How You Can Help" or "Philadelphia's Food Pantry: In Need Now."
6. Be actionable
You can make the ask in the subject line, as long as you don't use words that trigger spam filters. Now, making the ask in the subject line may decrease open rates, however studies show that a call to action in the subject line can actually increase conversion rates.
7. Ask questions
The right question — such as "How Can One Person Feed 1,000?" — makes recipients want to know the answer, and they only way they can get it is to click through.
To learn more about e-mail best practices and other technology-based fundraising mediums, and get the remaining 23 tips, check out the full Fast15 here.