Digital strategy, Creative and brand strategy

Our Favorite Subject Lines From 2021 (So Far!)

To use a cliche adage straight out of Hollywood: Subject lines are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. From the hair-on-fire attention grabbers by prolific political email signers like James Carville to subjects of grave urgency from nonprofits on Giving Tuesday, subject lines truly run the gamut – and when the name of the game is keeping your digital supporters opening again and again, that’s what they should do!

Before we help our partners kick it into overdrive ahead of the year-end fundraising push, we’re getting some inspiration from taking a look back at some subject lines that yielded open rates well above average. Here’s what we found:

The Powerful Subject Lines

Sender: International Day of the Girl @ Save the Children

Subject: Most times we go to sleep hungry

One of our chief imperatives is to render the stories of our partners authentically – no matter how gut-wrenching the truths may be. This urgent appeal from Save the Children made harrowing realities from halfway around the world front and center in their supporters’ inboxes, helping them raise meaningful revenue to fund their programs in Afghanistan.


Sender: Rep. Val Demings

Subject: Please, [First Name]

Please goes a long way, and so does personalization – even in a subject line. Rep. Demings’ campaign for U.S. Senate channeled urgency with two simple words, swapping in a supporter’s first name for “friend” if it was on file. Next time you’re looking to raise $8.4 million in a few months like the congresswoman did, don’t forget to say “please!”


The Urgent Subject Lines

Sender: Easterseals

Subject: Your voice is urgently needed, friend

Direct urgency isn’t just a go-to in political fundraising – nonprofits rely on it too, and for good reason. Being upfront about the tight situation your organization is in leads to plenty of eyeballs on your content, and ultimately, donations.


Sender: Michelle Lujan Grisham

Subject: urgent 🚨

To be honest, this could probably fall in any of the categories we’ve shared here – but for the sake of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s excellent employment of an emoji, we’re sounding the alarm on how weighty a subject line this was.


The Straight to the Point Subject Lines

Sender: USO

Subject: $10 = 1 essential kit for our troops

This subject line said it all, setting up supporters for a donation ask as soon as they clicked to open the email!


Sender: Mount Sinai Health System

Subject: What do antibody tests really tell us about COVID-19?

While much progress has been made, we’re still living through a global pandemic – and emails that center around COVID are still getting a lot of opens. This one from Mount Sinai got opens from more than half of their email list. 


The Mysterious Subject Lines

Sender: Abby Finkenauer

Subject: [photo enclosed]

Why is former congresswoman and U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer sending me a photo? That’s what we imagined Abby’s supporters thought when this email landed in their inboxes – or at least, that’s our hunch, since they opened big time.


Sender: Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation

Subject: 1962 → Now

Educating supporters about the impact of your work is important for cultivation – particularly ahead of big fundraising moments. That’s why MCSF wanted to take supporters through a timeline of their mission and accomplishments, and this subject line helped them ensure plenty of supporters opened and engaged with the content.

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