9.5 Tips to Writing Cleaver Headlines – Nonprofit newsletter subject line examples

To make sure your newsletter gets opened, you need to write clever (not the knife) headlines that cut to the point and entice people to click. 

If people don’t open your newsletter there is no point in hitting send, this is why the subject line can mean everything. Your nonprofit’s newsletter is a powerful tool when opened. It can help you cultivate relationships, provide valuable content, and ultimately drive donations and support for your cause. But if no one opens your newsletter, it’s not doing its job.

At the heart of many winning subject lines are the ability to either evoke an emotion or induce a curiosity gap. The curiosity gap is what happens when a question or mystery is introduced in the mind that begs for resolution. If your subject line can create this curiosity gap – it’s open rate city for your newsletter. 

Here are some examples of nonprofit newsletter templates from great organizations when you’re ready to work on what’s inside.

9.5 Tips For What To Write in the Subject Line

1.) Keep it short and sweet

The best headlines are usually shorter than six words. Why? Because people are busy and they don’t have time to read a novel. Keep your headlines short, sweet, and to the point. Plus people can only see about 41 characters.

2.) Use numbers, symbols and emojis

People are more likely to click on headlines that include numbers or symbols. So try something like “5 Tips for X” or “7 Ways to Y.” People love numbers because they make things easy to understand. If you can summarize your newsletter content in a few numbers, do it! Emojis are also a way to break the visual of a normal inbox.

3.) Make it a question

Questions pique people’s curiosity and can be a great way to get your readers engaged. Try using a headline like “Have You Ever Wondered Why X?”. We think any newsletter can be turned into a question if you have the right lens. 

4.) Use strong keywords

Make sure your headlines include strong keywords that accurately reflect the content of your newsletter. This will help improve your open rates as well as your click-through rates.

5.) Invoke curiosity

Curiosity is a great way to get people to click on your headline. Ask a question that you know people will want to know the answer to, or make a statement that will pique their curiosity. What about your content could be framed in a mysterious way? “A volunteer had 1 hour – you’ll never guess what happened next…”

6.) Test Test Test different headlines

Not all headlines will perform equally well. In fact, some might flop miserably while others take off like wildfire. The best way to find out which headlines work best for your audience is to test different ones and see what happens.Try A/B testing different headlines against each other until you find a winner.  

7.) Change the sender name

If your newsletter always comes from the same sender, people may start to recognize it and tune it out. Try changing up the sender’s name from time to time to keep things fresh. Choose the CEO or members of staff, or go rogue [email protected]

8.) Be direct

Sometimes the best headlines are the simplest. Just tell people what they’re going to get if they click on your newsletter. For example: “5 things you didn’t know about our latest fundraising campaign.”

9.) Evoke emotion

Emotional headlines tend to perform well because they connect with people on a personal level. Tap into people’s feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, or fear to get them to click on your headline. High energy (excitement/anger) emotions carry enormous energy if evoked and can greatly increase clickthrough rates. 

Wait, where’s the “.5”? Fine… After sending an email you can wait a few days and then resend the same content with a different subject line to anyone that didn’t open or click on your first email. This can be especially helpful for donation appeals.  

Subject line hacks/ideas/examples

The following are creative ideas that may work once or twice so use them carefully.

“Fwd: you’ll need to read this”  | “Fwd: CEO just emailed”

-> Use a subject line that seems like it was sent by someone else or by semi-accident.


-> Yes, a blank subject line will confuse and trigger curiosity to what happened.

“You won’t believe what happened to me today?!”

-> Triggers intrigue but might be a little spammy.

“I need your help”

-> Seems a little informal but also personal and not like a large newsletter. 

“This is the most important email you’ll ever read”

-> Yup, this is an exaggeration that will only work once. Swap out “important” with other adjectives.

“Check out this really cool article/video/thing I found”

-> Works to point people to content in the email and create curiosity. 

“Your Uber is waiting” |  “Motion Detected at the front door”

-> Mimic a notification subject can work, and the spammy factor can be decreased by hooking that subject into the narrative of the email.

Try to do the whole subject line with emojis, here is a cheat sheet.

“I’m so embarrassed, I can’t even tell you!”

-> Uses emotional triggers and personal narrative. 

“Can you help me with a quick favor?”

-> Direct ask that also notes that it won’t take long. Personal appeals can work in this way when paired with the personality of the organization.

“Hey, I need your advice on something!”

-> Direct ask that sounds like it is coming from someone who knows you. 

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

-> This is a great curiosity builder because your mind wants to know what’s what.

Remember If people don’t open your newsletter it is broken. Your nonprofit’s newsletter is a powerful tool that can help cultivate relationships, provide valuable content, and ultimately drive donations and support for your cause. Therefore, it is important to have an effective subject line in order to make people want to open the newsletter. The subject line shouldn’t be an afterthought but rather, the first thought when sending your next newsletter.