Brilliant Fundraising Email Subject Line Ideas for Your Nonprofit Campaign

Brilliant Fundraising Email Subject Line Ideas for Your Nonprofit Campaign
20 February, 2023 • ... • 3242 views
Nikita Nilov
by Nikita Nilov

A purposeful fundraising email subject line is vital. It depends on just a few words whether your email would even be read in full. A subject line clearly conveying the contents of the email is far more likely to be clicked on than one that is vague or flimsy. 

And if the message is not for material gain, but for some bigger good — it must establish credibility and build trust with the recipient, showing that the nonprofit is transparent in its communication.

Why is a subject line significant in a nonprofit email

When it comes to email marketing for nonprofits, the subject line predetermines the email experience. It’s the first text a person sees and it determines whether or not they read the email. This is particularly true for nonprofit organizations, as establishing the connection with volunteers and donors for fundraising is vital for them.

A thought-out subject line intrigues the reader and encourages them to open the email, increasing engagement and donations for your fundraising. In contrast, ill-made subject lines can make a possible donor to delete or disregard the email. 

Most importantly, fitting fundraising email subject lines really make your message stand out and make it through the inbox clutter which could be crucial in the age where we are dealing with tons of information on a daily basis.

When nonprofits should send emails

There could be various potential subjects for a nonprofit email, depending on the goals and audience of the organization. Some common types might be:

  • Fundraising appeals: an email calling for donors to support the organization’s mission and projects, both routine and one-off. 
  • Quarterly or annual reporting: nonprofits need to be transparent in fundraising campaigns since they deal with money people have entrusted them with.
  • Digital advocacy campaigns: encouraging supporters to take action on a particular issue or cause via email.
  • Events (both digital and offline): an email promoting fundraising events, educational workshops, or other activities.
  • Volunteer opportunities: seeking volunteers to help with projects or fundraising events.
  • Newsletters: sending regular email updates about the organization and its endeavors.
  • Thank-you emails: both after fundraising goals and after single donations, a thank-you email underlines the significance of every donation and makes the donor feel special. 

In crafting a subject for an email, any nonprofit should consider the needs and interests of its followers. A clear and honest subject line that leads into the content increases the chances that the email will get readers’ attention and success of the future campaigns.

How to write good nonprofit email subject lines: Finest tips

How can you compose effective subject lines for your fundraising emails? We have 7 tips to keep in mind:

Be mindful of the words you choose

Certain words and expressions can trigger spam filters or turn off readers. Writing for your nonprofit fundraising campaigns, avoid words like “need”, “free” or all caps in the subject lines. Instead, opt for a clear and precise choice of words.

Highlight the organization’s mission with words like “future”, “tomorrow”, “change”. Use uplifting language with “inspire” or “generosity”. You can also create a sense of unity with your subscribers by using “we”, “ours”, or “together”.


✅ Means to contribute

Keep it short

Subject lines for fundraising emails should be short and to the point — this one is a general digital marketing rule. Most email clients will only display the first few words of a subject line, so make sure your message is clear and concise. Aim for around 50 characters or less.

Numbers especially can tell a lot. For example, writing “85%” is more impactful than “almost done”. Indicating the amount of money raised is also a good idea.

❌ Please aid us in gathering funds for the people who require it to satisfy their basic needs

✅ Your donation matters most

A nonprofit email subject line example from TripAdvisor
An example of a nonprofit email subject line from TripAdvisor. Source: Really Good Emails

Begin with action verbs

When action verbs are the first ones of your subject line, it shows how the situation is urgent and encourages readers to do something immediately. Some examples of action verbs include “act now”, “donate”, “sign up”, or “register.”

❌ Have you heard about our new initiative

✅ Act and support the struggling people today

Create a sense of urgency

Adding a sense of urgency into your subject lines can encourage readers to take action. Use words like “last chance,” “limited time,” or “today only” to create a sense that the email is urgent. Don’t be too emotional though; being straightforward and honest about it is the key for fundraising.

❌ We are planning an annual fundraising campaign

✅ Be quick to respond and help today!

A nonprofit email subject line example from Justice Defenders
An example of a nonprofit email subject line from Justice Defenders. Source: Really Good Emails

Intrigue the subscriber

Intriguing or mysterious subject lines in the fundraising campaigns pique the reader’s curiosity and encourage them to open the email. However, try not to be too vague in your subject lines, as this can lead to frustration or mistrust. And negative emotions like these can interfere with future fundraisings.

❌ We are accepting donations

✅ Clean water is a commodity. Or is it?

A nonprofit email subject line example from Unicef
This subject line from Unicef looks a bit abstract, doesn’t it? Source: Really Good Emails

This subject line from Unicef grabs subscribers’ attention and makes them want to read the message. And when they click on it, this is what they see:

A nonprofit email from Unicef
And here’s the email under that subject line. Source: Really Good Emails

Ask questions

Asking a question in your subject lines captivates donors and encourages them to open the email. Just be sure to keep it connected to your nonprofit’s mission and fundraising goals.

❌ Help us with your donation

✅ Are you a superhero?

A nonprofit email subject line example
An example of a nonprofit email subject line from Texas Lutheran University. Source: Really Good Emails

Get personal

Using personalization in your subject lines, such as changing the recipient’s name or location, can make the email feel more relevant and increase the chances of it being opened. Imagine what your readers take close to heart, to make fundraising more successful.

❌ Help us with your donation

✅ John, your voice matters

A nonprofit email subject line example
An example of a nonprofit email subject line from DonorsChoose. Source: Really Good Emails

Now that we’ve discussed some basic tips for writing good nonprofit email subject lines, let’s examine specific types of emails and examples of persuasive fundraising subject lines.

The best nonprofit email subject lines to make sure your email gets opened

As a nonprofit, email is an essential means of communication with your supporters, volunteers, and donors. But with so much competition for attention in people’s inboxes, make sure your emails stand out. One way to do this is by crafting compelling and attention-grabbing subject lines that will push people to open your emails and participate in the fundraisings.

Pro tip

Treat your nonprofit email subject line as a teaser for the story you’re about to tell. And yes, you should always use storytelling in email marketing!

So here are some examples of subject lines for every occasion: 

Fundraising appeals email subject lines

  • Help us make a difference — Donate Now
  • Be the change you wish to see in the world
  • Your donation can save them
  • Join us in making an impact
  • Be a part of something bigger than yourself
  • Be one of our [number] donors!

Quarterly or annual reporting email subject lines

  • See the impact of your support — Q1 Report
  • We couldn’t have done it without you in 2022
  • Your donation came a long way in October
  • Fastest fundraising yet: [fundraising campaign name] results

Advocacy campaigns email subject lines

  • Stand with us — Support our Advocacy Efforts
  • Let’s beat [the issue] together

Events email subject lines

  • Save the date — Upcoming event is about to change lives
  • Your invitation to [organization name] gala
  • [event name] this weekend
  • [occasion name]: all donors are welcome!

Call to volunteer email subject lines

  • Be the change — Volunteer with us
  • We are in need of [subscriber name] now
  • Join [organization name] this summer

Newsletters email subject lines

  • Stay informed — Our latest news and updates
  • Get the latest updates from [nonprofit name]
  • You matter: Stay informed with our monthly newsletter
  • Don’t miss out: [nonprofit name] newsletter is here
  • Your monthly dose of [nonprofit name] news and updates
  • What’s new at [nonprofit name]: Our latest newsletter

Thank-you email subject lines

  • Your support means everything — Thank you
  • Thank you for your support
  • Your generosity means the world to us
  • We couldn’t do it without you
  • Thanks for making a difference
  • Your support is greatly appreciated

American Red Cross: a case study

Let’s look at how these principles are working in practice. The American Red Cross provides support to people affected by disasters of various natures. According to Milled’s data, in 2022 the organization sent 11 emails. Most of them were dedicated to event promotions with subject lines like:

  • Heroes Among Us Gala 2022
  • Join Us Virtually!
  • Buy Your Tickets Now!

Notably, these are concise and informative. Two of the examples above use action verbs. Exclamation points at the end show how significant these events are. 

The only call to participate by working and contributing to the cause is straightforward. The subject line is: 

  • Clara’s Council Volunteer Opportunity

There are two fundraising emails with these subject lines: 

  • URGENT: Support hurricane response in Florida 
  • Communities recovering from Hurricane Ian face a long, difficult path 

The first one follows all the best practices. The second one is longer than recommended yet it creates interest and motivates readers to click on the email. Here’s what the email about people affected by Hurricane Ian looks like:

An email example from the American Red Cross
An email example from the American Red Cross. Source: Milled

The American Red Cross’s overall approach to subject lines is very restrained. To make sure everything is appropriate for the cause and context, the organization uses neutral language and refrains from emojis, for example.

Charity: Water: a case study

Let’s examine another example. Charity: Water provides drinking water to people without resources. The charity sent close to 50 emails in 2022: that’s several messages each month. Notably, this nonprofit uses holidays and other occasions to remind people to contribute.

The other particularity of Charity: Water’s subject line writing style is the positive approach:

  • You have a lot to celebrate!
  • Good News: The odds are in our favor
  • Women and girls can’t be stopped
  • Good News: This win is for all of us 🥳

The copywriters at this charity also know how to entice their subscribers with just one sentence:

  • I love stories like this one
  • See the journey of your donation in this new video
  • This is what we mean when we say water changes everything
  • Let’s show the world dirty waters true colors this #WorldWaterDay

The playful tone and emojis, however, go together with more serious topics:

  • The burden of dirty water on mental health
  • Clean water moves mountains
  • Time flies when you’re changing lives
  • It has been an absolute rollercoaster over here.
  • Giving Tuesday is once a year, but your impact could be generational

The charity also cleverly draws attention to time-sensitive matters:

  • Set an alarm for 9 a.m. ET tomorrow
  • We have 24 hours to change lives in Nepal
  • Your support is critical to our work in Nepal

Overall Charity: Water has a complex and diverse subject line strategy. Combining the appeal to different emotions for maximum impact is the essence of their success.

The email design of this charity is minimalistic, with a focus on bright and expressive images:

An email example from the Charity: Water
An email example from the Charity: Water. Source: Milled

Check out our article to see other interesting nonprofit email examples and get inspired.


Crafting the perfect subject line for your nonprofit emails can be a challenge, but it ensures that your emails get opened. By following the best practices, you can increase the chances of your emails getting subscribers’ attention and ultimately, achieve your fundraising goals more effectively. Remember:

  • Keep your subject lines short.
  • Always be relevant and straight to the point, especially in the case of fundraising.
  • Clearly state the action you would like your recipient to take.
  • Be specific and think about who you are reaching.
  • Start with a strong subject line and keep improving your nonprofit email marketing!
Article by
Nikita Nilov
Nikita is a marketer by calling, exploring the world of digital marketing with experience in agencies, corporations and media platforms with a journalist background. Nikita is experienced in multiple industries and markets: from automotive to telecom and from government to FMCG, and from Eastern Europe to Middle East. Outside of work, Nikita’s interest lies in music, cycling and learning languages.
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