email subject line test

5 Email Subject Line Tests Your Nonprofit Should Try

In our previous blog post on nonprofit email marketing subject lines, we noted that 33% of people open an email based purely on the subject line alone. That’s a full third of your list who will make a decision to engage or not to engage with your nonprofit’s email marketing—based on a few simple words. This fact is why testing your subject line is one of the most important tests you can do in your email marketing. Here are five email subject line tests that you should consider running with your next email campaigns.

#1 Short vs. Long Subject Lines

There is a lot of thought leadership out there about why short subject lines work the best. Shorter subject lines get to the point faster, they don’t get truncated as often on mobile phones, and they respect peoples’ time. Truth is, whether someone responds to a short or long subject line really depends on your audience and the metric you are using to determine success—so put it to the test. Often, people are only concerned with open rates, but a longer, more informative subject line can boost your conversion rate.

#2 General vs. Specific Subject Lines

It’s hard to say whether your audience responds to detail or generality without testing—good thing email subject lines are the perfect place to find out the answer to this question. Let’s say you have an email with three different events featured in it; in order to test what your list likes best, test one subject line that gives the titles of all three events and another that just reads “Upcoming Events,” and you’ll figure out which works best for your subscribers.

#4 Subject Line Personalization

Personalization is critical in certain parts of email marketing, but it can cause quite a stir when it comes to subject lines. Some people think it’s a bit creepy and spammy to get an email from an organization or company with their name in the subject line. Others tout that a personalized subject line leads to a deeper connection with the reader. The key with subject line personalization is to choose the right message to use it in, like a birthday email rather than a newsletter.

#4 Use of Pronouns (Me vs. You)

It’s amazing the difference a word can make. Next time your working on writing a subject line, take a close look at it and ask yourself if the subject line is about you (or your organization) or if it could be about the recipient. Tim Ash at ClickZ has some great info about how pronoun use affects click through ratesĀ on landing pages. It’s time we start testing this in our emails too, don’t you think?

#5 Special Characters

By now, you’ve probably received an email or two from your favorite online retailer with a symbol or special character in the subject line. Maybe it’s a heart in a Valentine’s Day coupon you received or an airplane in the latest airfare deal from your favorite airline. Whatever the symbol is, they are there because they are working for some email marketers. It’s worth taking a look at and testing out if symbols are a fit for your email’s subject lines. Just make sure that you test extensively if you are working with symbols. Some email clients (Like Outlook 2003) don’t play nicely with them. Check out Campaign Monitor’s Post to learn more about symbol compatibility. It’s also important to ensure they are just an add on and not meant to replace a word in the subject line.

The options for email subject line tests are virtually limitless and the above are only five of many variables you can test to find out what makes your email most effective. Are you testing your nonprofit’s email marketing? Let us know what you’ve been trying and what’s worked for you in the comments below!

Want more? Read more about nonprofit email marketing best practices in this article.


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