The 3 C’s of “Clickable” Subject Lines

Constructing the perfect email gets you one step closer to your non-profit’s goals, but only if the subject line is convincing enough to get donors to click on through to the content.

Your hook needs to include consistency, clarity, and be compelling enough to catch the recipient’s attention and get them interested in the topic—all within a fraction of a second.


Setting the stage for a clickable subject line begins with consistency. Become a reliable and regular source for updates on everything that affects your cause, and your donors will be assured when they open your email they’ll be reading information that is relevant and timely.

You can become more consistent by researching your donors’ most active hour on the Internet and then scheduling your email’s release accordingly. Or, take a cue from the news of the day and be ready to address the issues in real-time. For instance, announce a recent breakthrough in your organization’s research that will interest of your donors.


Be up front and clear with the information your email contains and don’t make false promises. Nobody appreciates clicking on a subject line and spending the time scanning an email only to find out they’ve been misled.

Keep your writing short and sweet in the subject line, using concise language that can be quickly read and get to the point as soon as possible. If you’re promising a list it’s fine to add numbers to your subject line, or letters, like “The A, B, C’s of…” An example for this might be “The A, B, Cs of Supporting Your Local School.”


Creating an emotional connection with a compelling subject line is crucial for getting recipients to open your email. Using phrases that are inclusive or create excitement will act to stir their sub-conscience to find out more about the topic.

Craft a compelling story-line with action-oriented verbs, a funny pun, a hard-to-resist question, or by creating a sense of urgency with time sensitive words, like “act now” or “time is running out” to cultivate enough curiosity for the recipient to want to click through. Refrain from using all caps or overusing exclamation points. They signify poor writing. Try a phrase similar to “Act now to help push this important legislation forward.”

Increasing the click-ability of your subject lines can mean the difference between your email being read or immediately dragged into the trash. Using the three C’s of great writing, clear, concise, and compelling, will ensure your subject lines will provide you with the bait donors won’t be able to resist.


The moment you think you’ve figured what the secret sauce is to subjects, an ingredient changes! That’s why it’s so important to test, test, and test again. Try testing out different wording, phrases and combinations. Sometimes what you think would make the most obvious sense is just the opposite. For example, in an article by Mail Chimp regarding choosing the right words for subject lines, data shows the word “donate” when associated with Charity in the subject line, actually has a negative affect on open rate. What are some of your tips to keep those on your mailing list engaged?


Writing For Non-Profits


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