There I was at my desk – a brand new gift officer. I had my computer, some paper files, a prospect list, and one big task: Raise money from people on the list.
I remember thinking, How in the world am I going to do that!? I don’t know any of them.
My boss gave me a little guidance… “Oh, just send them an introductory letter or email and then call a few days later to set up a meeting.”
OK, I thought, simple enough.
So I started writing.
30 minutes later I was still writing.
I did some internet research to see if I could find a sample – nothing out there.
60 minutes in: still wringing my hands trying to figure out what to say.
I knew first impressions were important. And I knew the guy I was emailing was probably very busy. He must get hundreds of emails a day. How was I going to get his attention?
After about an hour-and-a-half I had finally cobbled something together. But I had no confidence in it. Reluctantly, I hit the “send” button.
Would anything ever come of my note? Had I ruined my chances with this prospect?
Well, that first email – in spite of all my agony and hand-wringing – never got a response.
And that certainly wasn’t the only time I sat there second-guessing myself for over an hour, trying to figure out what to write to a donor.
This week we’re talking about getting off to a strong start in 2018. And, in particular, we’re focusing on how email can help you build more and better donor relationships this year.
Why is this important? More relationships = more major gifts.
I also want to help you avoid time-consuming guesswork.
Yesterday’s post outlined three email strategies that will enhance your donor outreach. To recap quickly, they are:
- Make it relevant
- Warm and friendly wins the day
- Make it easy
And I even gave away one of my tried-and-true email templates which incorporates all of those strategies.
CLICK HERE to read the whole thing and get the free template.
Today is all about subject lines.
The subject line is your email’s first impression. It’s your best shot at standing out among the many other emails clogging your prospect’s inbox.
It’s just one line, but it’s the most important. And if you’re reaching out cold, your subject line will determine whether your even email gets opened or not.
Here are some tips to help you nail the subject line—every time.
1. Don’t Be Afraid of Long Subject Lines
The email marketing gurus will tell you to avoid long subject lines. “Short and punchy,” they insist.
If you find yourself doing any larger-scale marketing (i.e. newsletters, annual fund solicitations), it’s a good rule of thumb.
But, as a gift officer, you’re doing far more one-to-one communication than you are one-to-many. The rules are different.
Instead of worrying about length, focus on relevance.
How can you use the subject line to make it clear to your prospect that this email is for him? And just him. Can you arouse curiosity?
It might require a few extra words – that’s okay. Relevance often requires specificity. And more specificity will ultimately mean higher open rates.
2. Avoid Subject Lines That Sound Like Marketing Campaigns
Your prospects are probably already getting email from your organization—e-newsletters, annual fund appeals, event invitations, etc.
Your goal in crafting a subject line is to sound distinct. You want your recipient to read it and think, “Oh, this is something different from [Org Name].”
Here are some examples of what NOT to do:
- Help Make Our Community Stronger
- Holiday Event
- Hello from [org name]
- Update from [org name]
If you catch yourself wondering if your subject line sounds too much like a mass marketing email, it does.
3. Focus on Relevance
We talked about relevance before. We’re going to come back to it here.
Relevance is the primary advantage of one-to-one communications. Your colleagues writing your organization’s email newsletter don’t have this luxury. They have to hope their message will resonate with as many recipients as possible, which means using broader strokes.
You get to zero in on what you know will be of interest to your reader.
Here are more examples of what NOT to do. These are lame subject lines that have little or no relevance to the recipient:
- A question
- Please help
- [Your Org’s Name]
Great Subject Lines
So, if those are examples of what not to do, what does a good subject line look like?
- Greetings from [org name] – hoping to thank you in person
- Congrats on recent story in [publication] – question about [related topic]
- Eager for your feedback on [topic]
- Visiting from [org name] next week – lunch?
- Connecting with [school name] alumni in [location]
- [Mutual connection] recommended I get in touch
- Reaching out from [org name] – hoping for your advice on [area of prospect’s expertise]
See what’s happening here? There’s relevance in each of these subject lines, specificity even. Each one has something in it that directly connects with the recipient. And because of that, we’re not at all worried about length—or capitalization, or punctuation!
Now, don’t make any blatant grammatical errors, but do make your subject lines human. This is why your organization pays you to reach out one-to-one and build relationships. Marketing robots can’t do what you do!
Tomorrow we’re going to talk about growing relationships with donors and prospects. Going from zero to solicitation is a process. Email is one of the tools that can help get you there.
And, of course, I’ll make another one of my “go to” email templates available for download.
Until then, I wish you the very best.
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