The neglected open-rate booster that can boost your email fundraising

by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing.

When the topic is email fundraising, testing subject lines inevitably comes up.

Of course, subject lines are critical. Think of the famous one from Barack Obama’s organization: “Hey.” It was a big winner.

But the From line can also make a big difference in open rates. After all, one of the reasons Hey worked was that it was the president saying it.

Think about it. When you get an email, do you look only at the subject line? No, you almost certainly look to see who it’s from. And that’s especially true if you’re worried about viruses, phishing scams, or other baddies.

The From line is where you see if the sender has some relationship with you. If it’s somebody you know, you’re more likely to open the email regardless of what the subject line is.

It’s similar to people’s reaction when they get a direct mail appeal. We know from research that the recipient typically looks for her name on the envelope and then looks for a logo, organization name, or some other identifier in the corner card.

The From line that many charities use is simply the organization name. That might be the best way to go, but here are some alternatives to test:

  • Use your president’s name in the From line, especially if he or she is widely known. Try formal (Ms. Joanne Sykes) and informal (Jo Sykes).
  • Combine the president’s name with the charity name: “Pres. John Smith, Operation Impact.” Or maybe even “John S. at Operation Impact.”
  • If you have a celebrity endorser, try that person’s name. Or, again, combine it with the charity’s name: “Robert Redford, Operation Impact.”
  • Pick an expert on your staff and have the email come from him or her. An email from an environmental charity might use a From line like “Climate scientist Jessica Kincaid.”
  • Link the From line with the appeal topic. For example, the From line for an email about an earthquake disaster might be “Disaster Response HQ.”

These are just a few possibilities. You can probably think of a lot more. At the very least, it’s worth testing, especially if the result is higher open rates.


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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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