Subject lines are more important than you might think. On average, at least 100 emails flood your constituents' inboxes every single day. That's a lot of digital noise to shout over, which is why your email subject lines need as much TLC as the content inside. Here's a simple, four-step makeover to help transform your subject lines from ho-hum to "Oh, wow!"

1. State the Obvious

Don't dance around the point of your email. Talk straight to your recipients about what they'll find inside. You can be creative and pique curiosity, but for best results, make sure you answer the question, "What's this email about?" If you make readers think too hard, they may just opt to delete without reading and move on to their next message. For newsletters, highlight the key piece of content you're sending—a subject line like "Fall 2013 Newsletter" is easy to gloss over in a busy inbox.

Before: All the news that's fit to email

After: The Top 10 Women in Science

 

Before: Hot dog! Get down and boogie with your beagle!

After: Join Long Island Pet Rescue's Fall Frolic

 

2. Stand Out from the Crowd

In a sea of emails, it helps to be a little different. Add a touch of visual interest with brackets, quotes, a smidge (just a smidge) of all caps, or an exclamation point (just one!). Personalize your subject line with the recipient's city or state, which typically generate higher open rates than first or last names. Instead of telling people what's inside, try asking a question that piques their curiosity.

Before: SafeSurf loves its volunteers

After: SafeSurf LOVES its volunteers!

 

Before: Books for Kids is Coming to your neighborhood

After: Books for Kids is Coming to Newport!

 

Before: Take the Farm Friends Survey

After: Farm Friends Asks: What's Your Fantasy Meal?

 

3. Avoid the Spam Trap

Why bother with killer content if your subject line gets it caught in the spam filter? Keep your message front and center by avoiding things like cute symbols and special characters—spam filter magnets that attract the wrong kind of attention. Subject lines containing the words help, RE, or FWD are often interpreted as scams.

Before: ♥♥♥You will LOVE these PREMIUM GIFTS for your donation!!!♥♥♥

After: Cool donor gifts from Heart Healthy Houston!

 

Before: RE: Help a veteran find a home

After Homes for Heroes Fall Fundraiser wants you!

 

4. Keep It Short

Make every word count. After you've written your subject line, go back and delete words or phrases that don't add value. Ideally, stick with around 50 characters or less. Some studies have found that the 28- to 39-character range is the sweet spot for maximum open rates.

Before: Final reminder to make reservations to attend the Strutting Dog Gala on October 15, 2013!

After: Strutting Dog Gala: Last day to RSVP!

 

Revamping your subject lines with these simple tips can make a big difference in your email open rates. You might even see a boost in constituent engagement and giving!

Don't forget:

  • Your email subject lines can show how much you respect your constituents' busy schedules by telling them exactly what they'll find inside.
  • It's okay to add a little visual interest to your subject line, just don't overdo it and catch the eye of the spam filter instead.
  • Short and sweet is best when it comes to subject lines. Always try to keep them under 50 characters.