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Email Fundraising Subject Lines:
Use Today’s News Headlines
to Boost Open Rates

by Alan Sharpe

If you want to increase the number of people who read your email fundraising letters and email newsletters, put today’s headlines in your email subject lines.

Paris Hilton is in the news right now because she is in jail right now. She’s behind bars because she drove drunk while her license was suspended for drunk driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving made good use of Paris Hilton’s celebrity status and newsworthiness in an email appeal dated May 13, 2007.

Their subject line? “Help MADD stop the 500,000 Paris Hiltons.”

Here is the opening of the email:

“Help us raise $500,000 keep our roadways safe and support victims of this violent crime, especially those who drive while suspended.

“There has been a news explosion over the fact that Paris Hilton drove drunk, had her license suspended, and then continued to drive anyway. What has not been mentioned is that she is one of 500,000 people do this same thing each year; studies shown that 50 to 75 percent of people who have their license suspended for drunk driving continue to drive without a license and many of them are continuing to drive drunk. We are trying to raise $500,000 by the end of June to combat these 500,000 unsafe drivers and we need your help.”

As you can see, MADD did three things right with their subject line.

  1. They tied it to a celebrity who draws massive media attention and who is in the news today.

  2. They tied that celebrity to an alarming statistic (500,000 drunk drivers yearly), making that statistic more dramatic and concrete, less abstract.

  3. They tied that alarming statistic of 500,000 drunk drivers with their campaign goal of raising $500,000. Very clever.

Amnesty International did the same thing during the week that a new movie about the illegal diamond trade appeared in theatres. Their subject line: “Go see ‘Blood Diamond’ this weekend.”

Covenant House tied current events with their May 2007 appeal with this subject line: “A Gift of Love on Mother’s Day.”

Greenpeace did the same thing at Christmas 2006 with this subject: “Green holidays, your campaign to save the whales, enviro art and much, much more.”

Like everyone else, donors like to read about what’s new. And nothing is as new as today’s news. So tie your email message to a breaking news story, put that in your email subject line, and you’ll boost your open rates, and clickthroughs.

If you need help crafting email fundraising letters that deliver results, call me today, on my nickel, at 877-742-7732.

© 2006 Alan Sharpe. Reprinted with permission.


About the Author: Alan Sharpe, fundraising letter writer, instructor and author, is president of Raiser Sharpe, the full-service direct mail fundraising agency that helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using cost-effective, compelling, creative fundraising letters. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at
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