Holiday subject lines: good, bad, ugly, weird

Four subject lines from the end-of-year in-box:

Christmas Appeal – Consider a gift today!

There’s a soft spot in my heart for literal and straightforward communication, unadorned by the cleverness that so often turns nonprofit messages into secret code.

But this one may go too far, leaving nothing to the imagination. If the organization were extremely well-branded and strongly associated with Christmas (The Salvation Army), it might work. That wasn’t the case here.

And “consider a gift” is just weak in any case. They’ve given away the fact that there’s an appeal for funds in the in-box. They’ve also let drop the fact that this may not be the coolest offer they’re going to see today. Just another boring holiday-season appeal for funds.

Subject lines work best when they entice and promise. This one did neither.

[Organization] Responds to [obscure disaster]

This one makes one of the most common fundraising errors of all: Assuming that because we’re doing it, everyone cares.

It’s not a subject line at all, but the headline on a press release. (In fact, that’s what the content of the email was: a press release.)

News flash: Nobody is interested in press releases. Not even the press. Just announcing that you’re doing something is lazy and lame. If you want people to get involved, you have to involve them.

Bad Start to December Fundraiser

(I saw this one at Nolo’s Fundraising Tips for Busy Nonprofits.)

Bad. Really bad. It is completely self-directed. The for people within the nonprofit, a bad start to a December fundraising is truly a problem. Not for donors. They don’t support us for our fundraisers. They support us for our causes.

Every time you communicate with donors, you must spend some time and effort thinking about what concerns them. You’ll find that what’s bothering you is seldom of interest to them.

This is not tax deductible

(From the Obama campaign.)

This is an odd subject line. Why highlight one well-known, if slightly unattractive fact about their fundraising? There was nothing in the message about the lack of tax deductibility.

I wonder if I was in a test panel. One thing going for this one is its oddness. Odd subject lines often do well. Maybe this fits that category.


Comments

2 responses to “Holiday subject lines: good, bad, ugly, weird”

  1. These are all the BAD. Where are the GOOD? As a fundraiser that is always trying to learn and improve (like all of us), it would be helpful to get some ideas of good. It seems that we are always told about the bad (not just here, but at seminars, conferences, etc) and we are not sharing the good.
    So, any ideas on good year-end appeal subject lines?

  2. These are all the BAD. Where are the GOOD? As a fundraiser that is always trying to learn and improve (like all of us), it would be helpful to get some ideas of good. It seems that we are always told about the bad (not just here, but at seminars, conferences, etc) and we are not sharing the good.
    So, any ideas on good year-end appeal subject lines?

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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