By Lisa Alvezi • January 15, 2021

    GRAVYTY FUNDRAISING ACADEMY: 5 Email Subject Lines That Engage Donors

    GRAVYTY FUNDRAISING ACADEMYThis post comes from the Gravyty Fundraising Academy, a series that examines how fundraisers adapt and strategize to evolve what's possible through philanthropy.

    Gravyty Fundraising Academy: Lisa AlveziYour guide for the Gravyty Fundraising Academy is Director of Customer Success, Lisa Alvezi. Lisa has worked with countless fundraisers across Higher Education, Health Care, and Nonprofit organizations to transform fundraising. As a former frontline fundraiser herself, her goal is to help you see better results from your fundraising efforts.


    5 Email Subject Lines That Engage Donors

    Most gift officers know the donors in their primary portfolios well. However, what if a gift officer is new, newly assigned to a portfolio, assigned to do discovery work, or trying to reengage lapsed donors? Chances are, email is one tool you’ll use to reach out to these donors. The subject line of your email often determines whether the recipient opens it, or sends it straight to the trash.

    We’ve compiled four techniques that will help you increase your open rate, quickly.

    5 Email Subject Lines That Engage Donors

    5 Email Subject Lines That Engage Donors:

    1. Jane, how your last gift made a difference

      What makes this subject line work?

      First, you grab the donor’s attention by starting your subject line with their preferred salutation. What do you actually call them? Ms. Doe? Jane? Janie? Some donors are fine with using their first name, and others prefer something more formal, or you may be addressing a couple. Don’t rely on mail-merge to get it right. Second, the use of “your” in the subject line indicates that this message is unique to them — it’s donor-centric. Third, research shows that communicating how a donor’s gift benefited a program, person, organization, or otherwise is what donors care about most. Delivering what they care about increases the odds that your message is delivered to an accepting audience.
    2. Maria, can you help us raise $15,000 to buy winter coats for children?
      What makes this subject line work?

      This is an example of a direct ask email. The subject line is everything, stating the action you want from the donor and how giving will be used. Adding the donor’s preferred salutation helps make the direct ask personal. Additionally, by including the amount required to answer the need, you’re setting the stage to show them how they can directly contribute to the goal. What I love about direct asks is that in the body of the email, I can break down — as in this example — how many winter coats $20, $50, $100, $1,000 buys for those in need.
    3. The incredible things we've done because of your support, Willie
      What makes this subject line work?

      Personal stewardship and cultivation outreach is often overlooked for donors residing outside of a major gift officer’s primary portfolio. Reminding them about the impact of their giving throughout the year and expressing gratitude for their generosity allows donors to feel proud. As a gift officer, it’s also worth your time, because donors who can directly connect their giving with outcomes are far more likely to build a relationship with you, continue to give, and increase their giving over the years. Additionally, you’ll notice that this time, I placed the donor’s preferred salutation at the end of the subject line. The reason? Changing it up a bit is healthy, less formulaic, and achieves the desired outcome.
    4. One simple way to make a difference for cancer research, Theresa

      What makes this subject line work?

      Here is another example of a direct ask. Your subject line implies that you will clearly and directly outline the need and make a simple ask. For this example — cancer research — the ask could be monetary. However, that’s not always the case. Depending on your mission, you may ask for canned food donations or clothing to a drop off point. International organizations may ask that you sponsor a village by funding the purchase of a goat. The donor opens this email because they will receive a brief and to the point message about how they can take one action to help a cause for which they already have shown affinity.
    5. Thank you, Tim

      What makes this subject line work?

      Finally, there is nothing wrong with the basics of good manners. Who wouldn’t want to read a personal note of gratitude?


    Gravyty’s First Draft allows you to quickly personalize an email to a donor you may not know very well, if at all. Learn more about how First Draft empowers gift officers to personalize more outreach to donors than ever thought possible.

    If you’d like to learn more about how artificial intelligence can empower your organization to have a culture of philanthropy, personally reach new donors, and inspire giving at scale, click the button below and let's connect.


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