Your End of Year Giving Email Subject Lines (knock them off)


end of year giving email subject lines

Are your fundraising email appeals ready and lined up for the last week of the year? Is your email subject line click worthy?

It’s not too late to tweak them and sharpen up your ask.

Remember, as much as 10% of your ENTIRE ANNUAL giving will be coming in the last 3 days of the year.

Better be ready!

What’s the first step to raising money online?

Especially here during the last busy days of the year?

It’s getting your email opened by your wonderful donor.

What makes an email get opened or not?

It’s the subject line.

Create Killer Subject Lines for Your Last Minute Email Appeals

So what makes a great fundraising email subject line that will have a high open rate?

It’s something that is intriguing enough so that the reader will open.

I think curiosity also plays a big role in getting folks to open.

You want to tease the first part of your story and then the reader has to open the email in order to find out the rest of the story.

And for last-minute emails – there’s a huge amount of urgency.

That’s what you want to play on at the very end of the year.

Choose The Subject Line Words Carefully For Your Email Appeals!

Each word in your subject can either turn off readers or make them eager to read.

Check out this list of words from Mailchimp that nonprofits often use that actually REDUCE open rates!

Read their great article: Choose Your Words Wisely.

These words have a negative open rate!

These words have a negative open rate!

Studying the art of the subject line might be a good New Year’s Resolution for you!

Try Using a Symbol In Your Subject Line

Steve McLaughlin, Vice President of Data and Analytics at Blackbaud says that a strategically located symbol – like this black heart black-heart – can increase your open rate.

Experian analyzed subject lines with symbols, and found they had a 56% higher unique open rate.

So consider giving a symbol a try.

Just be sure it fits with your organization’s brand and image!

Knock off These Subject Lines for Your Last Minute Email Appeals

I’m grateful for Steve MacLaughlin (the very smart author of Data Driven Nonprofits, which you should read!) for his annual compilation of last minute email subject lines.

Check out his entire article on the Huffington Post here – it contains 450 subject lines from email appeals. (!)

Here’s a library of subject line ideas you can use to pull something powerful for YOUR organization.

Here are some of my favorites from Steve’s list in the Huff Post. 

Procrastinators Unite
The year in photos:
Time to be bold
Today is the last day
Can You Make It By Midnight?
Last day to help birds 3x as much
Thank You
Last call for clean water
Quick favor
Before you ring in the new year…
Wow, Steve, there’s a last-minute match
We’re THIS close!
We’re so close – will you help us reach the finish line?
Last chance to renew in 2015!
why I’m emailing you
Thank you!
The clock is ticking
Circling back on the Arctic
Countdown for our children
Thanks to you, all of this happened.

Here are Steve MacLaughlin’s “Best of the Best” Email Subject Lines:

Every year, I try to look for some of the more interesting and effective emails that nonprofits send me in December. Here are the best of the best from 2015!

Best Subject Line Award goes to Oxfam America Ambassador Aziz Ansari for his “Bad fruitcake news, Steve” message.

Perfect combination of humor, personalization, and attitude that we’ve come to expect from this holiday campaign.

Best Expectation ManagementEnvironmental Defense Fund for their email series that told me exactly how many messages were on the way (e.g. [2 of 5] and it created a mini serialization in my inbox.

Best Innovation in Graphics: This one goes to Lifeline Children’s Services for showing a giving pyramid inside the email noting how many gifts of each level they had received and still needed to get.

Very innovative and clever way to turn something only seen by fundraisers to help drive year-end gifts.

Best Looking Emails: This is a tie between the Museum of Modern Art and charity: water for showing that you can still design beautiful emails despite all the constraints.

Best Use of Mobile: Online donations on a mobile device should surpass 10% in 2015 and that makes mobile friendly emails that much more important. 

The Humane Society of the United States gets the award for Best-Email-That-Looked-Like-The-CEO-Sent-It-From-An-iPhone message. 

The Nature Conservancy gets the Best Text Message Award for the second year in a row.

Sadly, there were a lot more mobile unfriendly emails than those that work well on a mobile device.


Be sure to craft some killer emails with click-worthy email subject lines and have them in your donors’ inboxes the last three days of the year.

And don’t forget to schedule them between 11am-2pm. Steve says that’s the best time for online giving.

Leave a comment and tell me which ones are YOUR favorites!