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10 Nonprofit Email Subject Line Ideas That Work

6 min read
April 28, 2023
Michelle Robin headshot
Michelle Robin
Director of Product Marketing
Someone's Gmail inbox is displayed on the screen of a black laptop

Many factors affect email performance, including your audience, your timing, and your content. Each of those elements will help inspire your supporters to get involved in your mission. But you can’t build a movement if you can’t entice readers to open your email in the first place! That is why subject lines are so important. This article will walk you through how to create an attention-getting subject line so you can get donors to read your critical email communications.

Why a Good Subject Line Is Crucial for Your Emails

According to The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement, the average nonprofit has a 29.58% open rate and raises $5,598.51 per email campaign. Imagine if you could raise those open rates: How would it would increase your donations per campaign?  

You may think this is easier said than done. But the truth is that there are many factors that affect open rates. One of the main ones is your subject line. Too often, people focused on fundraising only concentrate on the body of email itself, and the subject line becomes an afterthought. 

While the content of the email is certainly important, readers will never see the great content you’ve created if you can’t get them to open the email in the first place.

What Makes a Good Subject Line?

What makes a good subject line may surprise you! Here’s an example: You may have heard that using the word “newsletter” in the subject line of sending your newsletter will make your open rates drop. While this is usually the case in for-profit organizations, it’s not necessarily true for nonprofits. According to Neon One’s latest research using the word “newsletter” had an average open rate of 33.09% and a higher click-through rate (7.42%) than those that didn’t (3.19%).

With that being said, you may still be able to get higher open rates when you incorporate these three guidelines into creating your subject lines.

  1. Be succinct: Aim for subject lines that are between 6-10 words or about 40 characters. Remember the idea is to get people to open your email. You don’t need to tell them everything in the subject line.
  2. Spark emotion or urgency: Consider using emotionally charged words or highlight deadlines to get people to take action. When using emotion, it’s important to stay on the positive spectrum and convey things like relief, gratitude, pride, excitement, and optimism.
  3. Surprise and delight: Use words that are attention-getting and make readers curious enough to open your email. Show appreciation and gratitude as that prompts higher open rates. 

Now, it’s time to write some subject lines for yourself. Below are words that can help improve open rates (and some words that won’t), followed by some templates for different types of emails your organization may send. 


Once you start implementing these guidelines, writing subject lines will become easier and stop being a struggle or an afterthought.

Want to improve your chances of success? It’s always a best practice to A/B test your subject lines so you can learn what truly resonates with your constituents. That way, you’ll improve engagement with every email you send.

Donor Acquisition Subject Line Ideas

Trying to attract new donors or members to your organization takes a lot of effort. You want to spark people’s curiosity and get them excited to learn more about your organization with these types of emails. 

  1. What do you know about ______?
    • Ex. What do you know about no-kill shelters?
    • This subject line gets the reader to think about what they do, or more likely don’t know, about the cause your organization supports.
  2. Can the answer/cure/solution to _____ be ______?
    • Ex. Can the cure to childhood cancer be exotic cars?
    • This subject line works well when you juxtaposition two things that don’t seem to be related on the surface.
  3. The surprising truth about ______
    • Ex. The surprising truth about young scientists
    • Fill in the blank with the cause your organization rallies behind to generate curiosity. This can also serve as a newsletter subject line that highlights an article of interest.

Nonprofit Newsletter Subject Line Ideas

Your constituents want to know what is going on in your organization and how they can help. You can use these subject lines stand alone or preface them with the word “Newsletter.”

  1. One ____ that will ______
    • Ex. One action that will triple your impact
    • Populate the first blank with a noun (i.e. volunteer’s story) and the second blank with a result (i.e. blow your mind).
  2. How _____ helped ______
    • Ex. How $1.34 helped curtail sex trafficking
    • This subject line works best with words that seem impossible. It could be a great way to highlight a campaign result.

Fundraising Email Subject Line Ideas

Fundraising is at the heart of every nonprofit. It’s super important to figure out a way to catch your donors’ attention and inspire them to give now and give often. That is best done with subject lines that convey urgency.

  1. We’re down to the last _____
    • Ex. We’re down to the last dollars of our goal
    • Whether it’s a time or dollar goal, either will work with this template.
  2. Record number of ____ need help in _____
    • Ex. Record number of stray dogs need help in Atlanta
    • This template can be great to use when a sudden need pops up for your organization.
  3. ______ at risk of _____. Give by midnight!
    • Ex. Children at risk of starvation. Give by midnight!
    • This template screams urgency when you highlight the need and provide a deadline.

Thank-You Email Subject Line Ideas

Gratitude-focused emails are a wonderful way to build strong relationships with your constituents. Go beyond the typical “Thank you for your donation” subject line with these templates.

  1. Your generosity impacted ______
    • Ex. Your generosity impacted 25 families!
    • Tell your donor exactly how their gift made a difference.
  2. How we _____ in ______
    • Ex. How we spent $42,367 in one day
    • At the end of a campaign, share the overall results and where the raised funds went.

Ready to Go Beyond the Subject Line?

Check out Neon One’s proprietary research from 1,495 nonprofit organizations of all sizes and missions to learn how to create high performing emails.

The cover of The Nonprofit Email Report
The cover of The Nonprofit Email Report

At Last! Nonprofit-Specific Email Data Is Here

Stop relying on email best practices based on for-profit businesses! The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement is full of email benchmarks (for both small and large nonprofits!), best practices, and examples that will equip you to build more compelling emails. Get your copy today!

Read & Download the Report

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