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The Nonprofit Email Report: Data-Backed Insights for Better Engagement

Browse The Report

  1. Introduction
    1. A Note from Neon One
    2. Who’s Represented In This Report?
    3. Why Is Email So Important?
    4. Anatomy of an Email
  2. Nonprofit Email Deliverability & Engagement Benchmarks
    1. Introduction
    2. Nonprofit List Sizes
    3. Ask The Expert: Is List Segmentation Really That Important?
    4. Nonprofit Email Bounce Rates
    5. Nonprofit Email Open Rates
    6. Nonprofit Email Unsubscribe Rates
    7. Nonprofit Email Click-Through Rates
    8. Nonprofit Email Fundraising Performance
    9. Nonprofit Email Performance by Date & Time
    10. Email Sender Superlatives
  3. A Data-Driven Approach to Subject Lines & Preview Text
    1. Introduction
    2. Convey Positive Emotions in Subject Lines
    3. Ask the Expert: How Did You Use AI for Subject Line Sentiment Analysis?
    4. Words to Include (or Avoid) in Your Subject Lines
    5. Experiment with Emojis in Subject Lines
    6. Write Compelling Preview Text
    7. Words to Include (or Avoid) in Your Preview Text
    8. Put It All Together — Performance Benchmarks & Word Usage
  4. Creating Effective Emails
    1. Introduction
    2. Ask the Expert: What Should I Keep In Mind When Creating Compelling Emails?
    3. Tip #1 — Include Imagery in Your Emails
    4. Tip #2 — Pay Attention to Salutations
    5. Ask The Expert: Do Salutations Really Make a Difference?
    6. Tip #3 — Use the Word "You"
    7. Tip #4 — Make Your Message Scannable
    8. Ask The Expert: How Do I Create a Great Call to Action?
    9. Tip #5 — Include Great Calls to Action
    10. Put It All Together - Build Clear, Compelling Emails
  5. Lessons from the Most Engaging Email of 2022
    1. Introduction
    2. Top Engagement Email Dissection
    3. Go Build More Engaging Emails
  6. Data-Backed Insights for GivingTuesday and Year-End
    1. Introduction
    2. Who’s Included In This Data?
    3. GivingTuesday Fundraising Totals
    4. GivingTuesday Email Data
    5. End of Year Fundraising Totals
    6. End-of-Year Email Data
    7. Use These Data-Backed Best Practices to Nail Your GivingTuesday and Year-End Goals
    8. Now Get Out There And Write Some Emails
  7. Methodology & Appendix
    1. Methodology
    2. The Dataset
    3. Terminology and Definitions
    4. Metrics Definitions
    5. Analysis by Mission & Organization Income
    6. Analysis by Time & Date Sent
    7. Analysis by Content Sentiment
    8. Data Privacy & Security
  8. About Neon One
    1. Learn more about Neon One

Words to Include (or Avoid) in Your Subject Lines

When Koshy analyzed Neon One clients’ email subject lines, we noticed that some words had exceptionally noteworthy impacts on overall email performance. Getting your constituents to open your emails is the first step toward moving them to action; let’s take a look at some specific words or phrases that will impact your open rates.

Why Is This Important?

Subject line analyzers have been available to email creators for years. But few of those tools can give you a close look at the words and phrases nonprofits commonly use for their emails. When you’re vying for your audience’s attention, knowing what words or phrases will help (or harm) the likelihood of them opening your message is invaluable.

To learn more about how subject line language impacts open rates, Koshy trained a custom machine-learning model to analyze which subject line words impacted email performance. The model identified key words and phrases that impacted open rates, then calculated whether each word would make someone more or less likely to open emails containing that word in the subject line. Take the word “Support,” for example: People are 307% more likely to open emails with that word in the subject line.

Subject Line Word Usage Data

Word Impact on Open Rates
Support + 307% impact
Survey + 200% impact
Donate + 194% impact
Tuesday + 176% impact
Reminder 308% impact
Member 224% impact
Meeting 213% impact

Here’s another interesting subject line trend: Subject lines that contained the word “Newsletter” had an average open rate of 33.09% and higher click-through rates (7.42%) than those that didn’t (3.19%). While “newsletter” didn’t show up in the top three subject line words, this finding contradicts a widely-accepted best practice for for-profit organizations. For-profit companies generally see low open and click-through rates for emails with the word “newsletter” in the subject line, but that seems not to be the case for charitable organizations.

Koshy also identified a few words that impacted click-through rates, including:

Word Impact on CTRs
Issue + 58% impact
News + 48% impact
National + 40% impact
Day 33% impact
Meeting 26% impact

What This Means for You

Want to improve your open rates? The words “support,” “survey,” “donate,” “issue,” “news,” and “national” tend to result in higher open rates and CTRs. What can you glean from that information? You might notice that two of those words—support and donate—seem to refer directly to an appeal for donations. Other words—issue, news, and national—can be tied to educational and even urgent messaging. The positive impact the word “survey” has on open rates may indicate that people are willing to share their thoughts and feedback about your work and their experiences with your organization. Look for opportunities to include these words (or words that elicit the same emotional response) in your emails.

That said, these words aren’t a silver bullet that will always improve your overall email performance. “The direction of this data indicates that specific asks, and often imperatives, do get people to open emails,” Koshy says. “As a caveat, it’s important to remember that these emails are going to warm accounts. It would be wrong to assume that sending out a single email with the subject “Giving Tuesday: Will You Donate to Support X?” would inflate opens in a campaign sent to a cold list.” In other words, keep your audience in mind when you craft your subject lines. Your existing donors may be willing to open an email about GivingTuesday, but that may not be the case if you’re emailing someone who’s unfamiliar with your organization.

And, for goodness sake, don’t send an email with the subject line “Reminder: Member Meeting” to your list!