Are you tasked with sending out your nonprofit’s e-newsletter?

Has it been a few weeks or a few months since you sent out your last one?

Is it because you get discouraged? Do you wish you knew better ways to get people to open your enewsletter?

If so, read on!


Change your subject line. Use these words (sparingly) and watch your open rates climb!

1. Free. Maybe your open house is free. Or there’s 4 ways to advocate for your cause, and you’re offering a free pdf about this!

2. New. You can share all about your new website, your new monthly giving program, your new office mascot, new logo, new office, there’s so many ways to use this word!

3. At last. Is your capital campaign done? Building finally finished? Exciting event almost here? You can use these words.


4. This. There’s no coincidence that this word happens a lot in movie trailers. It makes you pay attention. It’s like someone pointing a giant finger at something for you to look at. THIS summer, we’re going to- THIS FALL, look for- THIS WINTER, it’s all about… see what I mean?

giant foam finger

5. Announcing. You can announce any number of things. Your new staff member! A new monthly donor! Your next event! The last chance to buy tickets! Such a useful word.

6. Warning! Warn people about something. People pay attention to a fear of loss much more than a hope for gain.

7. Just released. What could you just release? A research report? A press release? A new pinterest or Instagram? Be playful!

8. Now. This makes people sit up and take notice. Now you don’t have to wonder what it’s like to volunteer with HOPE Inc. Here’s a volunteer story for you! You can use this for a lot of different kinds of blog posts.

volunteers doing a phone-a-thon

9. Here’s. Here’s a new way to tell us what you want. Here’s a new 3 question survey. Here’s a super way to stay cool this summer, AND support HOPE Inc!

10. These. These two donors just did something incredible. These two riders ran over 8 bridges in their first bridge pedal! These three people know that one donation can make a difference. Here’s how.


Ideas taken from the book “Cashvertising” by Drew Eric Whitman

11. Use I. This gives a conversational tone to your writing. It works well to help people take notice of what you’re saying. Don’t hide behind the third person. Be real.

12. Use the word You. Donors are always on the lookout for this word, and their name.

13. Use the word Why. People are on the lookout for WHY you’re doing things. Don’t assume your donor gets your mission and why it’s so important. I doubt they do really know. Let them know again why their donation is so necessary, and why your mission is so urgent.

14. Use the word How.  Like this. Say, “How would you like your art on the cover of our next newsletter? Entries open today! Or, How can we ever hope to change the world? It seems hopeless! Then explain why it’s not hopeless.

15. Use the word breakthrough. Dr Mercola does this a lot.

16. Segment Your Target Audience based on what they click on.
You might have multiple links in your email for different things.

For example your links could be to get:

  • Donations
  • Sponsorships
  • Volunteers
  • In-Kind Donations
  • Gala event attendees


Based on what people click on, segment your list and email JUST to those people who clicked on, for example, your donate link. Ask them if they’d like to complete the process. You will get a MUCH higher open rate with these people, especially when you customize the email subject line based on what they were looking for.  What enewsletter providers allow you to do this? Aweber. Mailchimp. GetResponse.


17. Survey. Seriously. Survey your subscribers to find out what they find engaging about your newsletter, and what they’d like to see less of.

It could be as simple as asking, “Do you like our native bird and plant section?” and they can say, “Yes, “Meh” or “Cut it” and then you’ve just made your newsletter better in a day!

You can ask what they’d like to see and give them a list of options:
Events, Volunteer opportunities, concerts, interesting articles related to the mission, or something else.

Then, obviously, based on what they want to see more of, adjust your subject lines accordingly.

18. A/B Test your subject lines.
Which providers allow you to do this? Aweber. Getresponse. Mailchimp, just to name a few.

Test 1:
A) Subject: How is your summer going?
B) Subject: Join us for summer fun at the pool!
C) Subject: You can get cool in a hot summer!

When you do this, you’re going to find your open rates rising, because you can test what works best with your audience.

Any other ideas you’d like to share to get higher open rates? Please leave a comment!