Here it is! The 2014 edition of my annual review of year-end fundraising email subject lines. Be sure to give the 2013, 2012, and 2011 reviews a look too.

For 2014, I reviewed 445 email messages sent to me from 74 different nonprofit organizations between December 1st and 31st, 2014. Here are some insights, trends, and the complete list of email subject lines.

Email by Date

Once again there was a familiar pattern of an email crescendo leading up to December 31st. 28% of all the emails that I received in December were sent in the last 5 days of the year. On December 31st, I received 53 emails from 37 different nonprofit organizations, the most of any day.

Most emails were sent between Monday and Thursday of the week. Sunday and Saturday had the lowest email volume during the month. Fun Fact: I didn’t receive a single nonprofit email on Sunday, December 7th.

Email Volume by Day

#GivingTuesday continues to grow in email volume each year. In 2014, there were 51 emails sent by 41 different nonprofit organizations on #GivingTuesday. That was a significant increase from 2013 and nearly as many emails that I received on December 31st.

Email by Hour

44% of all fundraising emails were received between 9am ET and 1pm ET during the month of December 2014. That was slightly down from 2013. 34% of emails were received after 1pm ET. Only 10% were received before 8am ET.

Email Volume by Hour

We know from other Blackbaud research that most online donations happen between 11am ET and 2pm ET. Seeing a significant number of emails being sent during this time period begs the causation or correlation question.

Email Frequency

Nonprofits sent a median of 6 fundraising emails during the month of December 2014. I was sent 23 fundraising emails by one single nonprofit organization during the month. That’s a new record. 14 nonprofits sent me more than 10 email messages.

There were 16 organizations that only sent me one email message during December. This is always a head scratcher for me. While sending 23 emails is probably too many, I can certainly say that sending just one isn’t enough. I’m going to put it on my “to do” list to reach out to some of these organizations to inquire about their strategy.

Is there a magic number of emails to send? Yes, absolutely. And the best way to find the right number is to test. My experience over the years tells me that most nonprofits still don’t send as much email as they should be.

Subject Line Analysis

This word cloud was generated based on all 445 fundraising email subject lines. The most frequently occurring words are larger and common English words have been removed.

Nonprofit Email Subject Lines

Once again, words like “gift” and “Holiday” were very popular. “GivingTuesday” was referenced in 22 of the email subject lines. Only 2% of fundraising email subject lines promoted a tax deduction and I continue to see that decreasing each year.

7% of all the emails had a “last chance” focus and 27% used the word “you” in the subject line. There were 19 emails my name in the subject line and this continues to increase every year. About 6 faux forwards this year which was more than 2013. Only one of them was done well considering the content of the message.

2014 was the rise of the minimalist subject line. Emails with subjects like “hey” and “away” along with “75%”, “ice” and “pending” showed up in the inbox. Most of them came from a single nonprofit and I’m curious to know if they performed differently.

The Best of the Best

A good subject line is just one part of the success equation. Getting the right message to the right people at the right time is still critical. And with more than 50% of all emails now opened on a mobile device it’s vital to be mobile friendly.

My favourite email subject line during December was “No, you can’t have my blender” from Oxfam America. In the abstract, it makes no sense. But of course, context is everything. The rest of the message and the entire year-end email campaign from Oxfam America were all well done.

The best end-to-end campaign was done by the Museum of Modern Art. I tweeted about it and will do a follow-up blog post about why they got so many things right. Everything from the email design to the donation form experience was spot on.

TNC Text MessageMy multichannel award goes to The Nature Conservancy. On the last day of 2014, I received 53 emails from 37 different nonprofits. But only one nonprofit, The Nature Conservancy, sent me a text message with a donation ask. The text message was sent to me at 8:08pm ET, which is outside of peak online giving hours, but perfect for mobile users.

My only recommendation would have been to text a link to a mobile optimized donation form. Current text-to-give in the US is limited to $10 per transaction. The average online donation is significantly greater than this and would likely yield significant better financial results.

The only thing that really matters is whether or not the email resulted in a donation. Subject lines are just one aspect of a successful email campaign. In 2015, I’m going to start sharing more of what appears in my mailbox and inbox to highlight the good, bad, and ugly.

All the Nonprofit Email Subject Lines

Here are all the fundraising email subject lines beginning with those received on December 31, 2014 and moving backwards in time to December 1, 2014:

  • DEADLINE: Protect Nature by Midnight
  • Last chance: Match ends at midnight!
  • LAST CHANCE: Make a 2014 gift to protect rainforests
  • LAST CHANCE: You make 2x the difference before midnight
  • Just hours left to double your gift for animals
  • FW: URGENT: Midnight Deadline
  • Celebrate With Us, There’s Still Time
  • Deadline: MIDNIGHT TONIGHT
  • Last chance to support new cures – every dollar MATCHED
  • Counting down to the deadline
  • This is your last chance
  • Last day to make your 2014 year-end gift!
  • One day only: All gifts matched
  • You rock my socks!
  • Fwd: Last chance—do it for the Bay
  • Just hours remain to support MoMA in 2014
  • away
  • Mr. MacLaughlin, LAST DAY
  • Happy New Year from the Charleston Symphony Orchestra!
  • Today’s the day
  • Give By Midnight Tonight!
  • MATCH: Last chance to give in 2014
  • This is your last chance
  • Last Chance! Give Back to Nature This Year
  • DEADLINE: Match offer expires tonight!
  • Fwd: Steven – Review Your 2014 Donations
  • Procrastinators Unite
  • Steve, time is running out!
  • FW: Can you make it by midnight?
  • Midnight deadline
  • Last day to give – FWD: Nothing can prepare you for cancer
  • Close out 2014 with the gift of clean water
  • Before The Clock Strikes
  • Deadline: MIDNIGHT!
  • MATCH: Today only, your support goes twice as far
  • There is Still Time to Give!
  • More projects, more places, more families
  • Hours to go!
  • Lots of Countdowns Today. This One Is About Changing Lives.
  • Double your impact for animals–but only until midnight!
  • We wish this could wait
  • hey
  • There’s Still Time – Get the Match & Deduction
  • Support us today and receive an exclusive thank-you gift
  • URGENT: Midnight Deadline
  • Stand with our Medical Teams
  • Just a few hours left
  • Last chance—do it for the Bay
  • The Last Night
  • This is your last chance
  • Only hours left to give in 2014 (plus FREE Gift)!
  • Only hours left to have your gift matched 2 to 1!
  • Urgent: Last-minute match – we really need your help
  • tomorrow
  • Steve, give before 2015!
  • Together, let’s continue to win!
  • Two days left! Take the Challenge
  • Don’t miss out! Make twice the impact this year
  • We’re almost there and could really use your help!
  • There’s still time to help!
  • Thank you and Happy New Year!
  • WNYC is YOUR station
  • Reminder: Steve, double your gift!
  • One Day Left to Make a Tax Deductible Donation
  • Less than 48 hours, Steve
  • Give 100% before the year runs out.
  • Not a Reason to Give…
  • Last Chance! Make a it Happy New Year for Outward Bound USA
  • Let them know you are there
  • You can make a difference!
  • Could they stop the Bay clean-up?
  • Just 24 Hours: Let’s Put a Match to It
  • Time’s up tomorrow night!
  • just checked
  • Baby monkeys, terrified and heartbroken
  • Close the year by curing one person of leprosy
  • Happy News Years Live from Lincoln Center
  • Counting for Significance
  • Less than 48 hours to make a difference
  • Donate for a 2014 tax credit!
  • Time Is Running Out For Your Gift To Be Matched
  • Concerned…
  • Steven – Review Your 2014 Donations
  • Hurry, Help Us Get Closer to a Cure! FREE GIFT
  • 48 hours to…DOUBLE your dollars!
  • 2014 is coming to a close
  • Year-end Gift to Roger Tory Peterson Institute
  • Happy New Year from Wills Eye Hospital – 2014 Year in Review Video
  • Downton Abbey is back
  • Only 3 more days to DOUBLE your gift
  • All year long
  • Steve – your gift matched!
  • Time is running out to make your lifesaving year-end gift.
  • Hurry! It’s Not Too Late!
  • South Carolina’s Natural Treasures Need You, Steve
  • Don’t let 2014 end without being a part of the new Gibbes!
  • Three days only: All donations matched 2 to 1!
  • Steve, Urgent Deadline
  • Give Today Because…
  • DOUBLE your tax-deductible gift!
  • A Bird in the Hand…
  • who will you help?
  • On the Frontlines of Ebola, Three Miracles
  • Help them defy the odds
  • Give today – now is all that matters
  • If you haven’t already…
  • Our Resolution
  • Too Wild a Place
  • Last Chance: Make Your Year-End Gift Today
  • A world without art is just boring
  • Changing the course in 2015
  • an update
  • Steve, there’s somebody I’d like you to meet
  • Make Your Special Year-end Gift Today
  • We need you
  • Triple Your Impact This Year
  • The Tax Man Cometh!
  • Three days to have your gift matched
  • Don’t let this be a death sentence for Nosey
  • We can’t do it without YOU!
  • Your Investment Gives Back to Nature
  • Will you help us reach our goal, Steve?
  • Stranded…till spring?
  • Your donation, doubled!
  • Things We Love
  • Be the change
  • Five days left to show your support
  • Almost there
  • Your Investment Gives Back to Nature
  • We need you
  • Your Lifesaving Impact
  • What sets us apart
  • There’s still time
  • A Gift to You
  • Why is this rabbit so afraid?
  • Oysters, crabs, and other amazing wildlife
  • Mr. MacLaughlin, 5 days left
  • Merry Christmas, Friend!
  • Merry Christmas from e3 Partners
  • Merry Christmas from World Animal Protection
  • YES! This solves your last-minute scramble.
  • YES! This solves your last-minute scramble.
  • Don’t Worry: Last Minute Green Gifts Are Here!
  • We will expose the truth
  • ‘Tis Better to Give…
  • Are you sure you checked twice?
  • Seasons Greetings!
  • You can still buy Gifts of Hope in time for the holidays!
  • No, you can’t have my blender
  • Still looking for a last-minute gift? It’s right here!
  • Still Need a Gift for Tomorrow?
  • Patti LaBelle wishes for a cure, too.
  • Seriously, You Are Amazing
  • Deck the Halls!
  • Field Report: All gifts matched, success stories & more!
  • Our Mission is to Help Other Nonprofits…
  • Dogs are being slaughtered for leather–you can help them
  • Special interview: How we’re using viruses to stop cancer
  • Another Year of Great Public Television
  • An Old-Fashioned Christmas
  • Was I on the Naughty List?
  • We’re almost out of time
  • GBBC eNews: Snowy Owls, eCards, and Bird ID Help
  • Don’t Worry: Last Minute Green Gifts Are Here!
  • This holiday season, give 100%.
  • Show them you love them
  • Give Hope to Children this Holiday Season
  • Your gift today will be DOUBLED!
  • Cancer was never a thought in my mind
  • Happy Holidays from Opportunity International
  • Happy Holidays from Boston Children’s Hospital
  • URGENT: A Child Needs You
  • Last-minute gift
  • Last Chance: Six Months Free!
  • Back by Popular Demand: Six Months Free!
  • Who doesn’t love a goat?
  • 2014 – A Year of Rainforest Victories and Milestones
  • Call the Midwife Holiday Special
  • How many baby seals will die in 2015?
  • Time is running out to change lives in 2014
  • What the Chesapeake Bay should be
  • We will stand for children
  • Plan Canada e-newsletter – December, 2014
  • You won’t believe what just happened…
  • Our line in the sand
  • pending
  • The 2014 you made possible
  • Best Wishes and Happy Holidays
  • It’s not too late to send a great gift
  • Gift of hope
  • Happy Holidays!
  • Gifts that won’t get lost in the shuffle
  • Your most important New Year’s resolution
  • Petition: 3 Days Left
  • Tax-Free Giving Extended Until December 31
  • A terrifying fate
  • Dogs are being slaughtered for leather–you can help them
  • Elephants Held Captive
  • What’s #1 on your list?
  • December e-newsletter: Obama Family Visit, Holiday Helpings, Annual Report
  • To my core.
  • We’re getting there
  • Get Ready for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the CSO
  • Pregnant and Starving: We Got to Ruby Just in Time
  • Join the Charleston World Heritage Coalition!
  • Thanks to you, we’re transforming lives through education
  • What’s Happening at WMC!
  • Ready for Another?
  • Exclusive Gift Membership Offer Enclosed
  • ‘Tis the Season at NJPAC
  • Our gift to you – heartwarming news on community collaborations, events, & new programs
  • Beaten for Being Gay in Russia – Andrey’s Story
  • Philanthropy Matters December 2014
  • Help make a striker smile for the holidays
  • Claim Your Calendar Before December 31st
  • Tis the 12th Day!
  • NestWatch eNews: Who’s using your nest box this winter?
  • Friend, let’s finish 2014 strong
  • There’s just two weeks left of 2014!
  • Happy Holidays! (Watch this…)
  • Season of Joy, Unity, and Giving
  • Make Your Tax-Deductible Gift to Nature
  • Steve – before the year ends, we need your help
  • Annual CBF Membership Renewal
  • ice
  • Nothing can prepare you for cancer
  • Watch the Free Care Fund Benefit Show Tonight on KDKA-TV!
  • You were there for my child.
  • Big Oil’s clean up plan
  • 2014: making the impossible, possible
  • Nosey the elephant is suffering–and running out of time
  • Happy Holidays from Wake Forest
  • Need a Last Minute Holiday Gift Idea?
  • Dogs Bludgeoned and Killed for Leather in New Investigation
  • Small things
  • They’re counting on you
  • Make a Year End Contribution
  • Great gifts under $50!
  • Shopping Not Done? Gift Cards to the Rescue!
  • 75% of a disaster
  • Double your donation this holiday season
  • Bears in Pakistan need your help this Christmas
  • Crisis news December – Crisis Christmas presents
  • 10 Reasons to Feel Good About 2014
  • Happy Holidays From PETA
  • What Do You Think?
  • Happy Holidays, Steve
  • Free shipping on custom-printed cards
  • Santa says we’ve been really, really good!
  • Fame
  • I’m Dreaming of a White Kitten…
  • Because of you, our work is changing lives
  • One day left to send Rescue Gift cards
  • FW: South Carolina’s Natural Treasures Need You, Steve
  • Friend, the deadline is Midnight
  • Ebola: There’s hope – please read
  • Give it forward: $35 that will change the world
  • Make your gifts count in 2014
  • Make a year-end gift that matters.
  • A terrific gift that helps animals!
  • LAST CHANCE for custom-printed cards (that make TWICE the impact!)
  • Thank You from e3 Partners
  • Experience Sacred Journeys
  • Just 5 days left
  • Time to make 2 X the impact is running out
  • Giving is good for you.
  • Love is blind
  • REMINDER: Live Webcast – A Year of Unprecedented Emergencies – Dec 17
  • Final day! Buy now to receive before 12/24
  • Urgent Deadline: All gifts MATCHED!
  • Because of you, our work is changing lives
  • Hurry! Time Is Running Out to Give Green
  • Stop Arctic drilling once and for all!
  • Demand an end to El Salvador’s abortion ban
  • Update: Rats frozen alive and drowned at dealer
  • Outward Bound Featured Today on AOL.com!
  • Hurry! Time Is Running Out to Give Green
  • Your Holiday Gift Catalog – All gifts matched
  • Your gift can have the best ears
  • Make a Difference Just By Saying Thank You
  • VIDEO: The animals you’ve helped this year
  • Why I fight
  • A gift to wow everyone on your list
  • Our one chance to save ringed seals.
  • Polar Bears
  • Protect the Arctic ring seal
  • 12 Ways to Help Animals This Holiday Season
  • Diabetes is scary. Superheroes needed!
  • Hurry! Time Is Running Out to Give Green
  • Your gift makes twice the difference.
  • You Saved This 3-Day-Old Kitten
  • Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Collectibles + Free Shipping Over $50!
  • Last chance to join our kids’ holiday surprise!
  • Shop Amnesty’s Last Sale of the Year
  • CIA Torture and Lies
  • December eNews: Teaming Up to Take on Diabetes
  • Happy Holidays from the Gibbes Museum!
  • Why we give.
  • Special Olympics South Carolina News
  • The solutions
  • Breaking: Rats Frozen Alive and Drowned at Dealer
  • Thank you for considering a year-end gift to support Outward Bound
  • Your support means so much.
  • Great holiday gifts for children from Gifts of Hope!
  • Unwrapped cards ship at midnight – don’t miss out – order now!
  • Reality vs. our simple vision
  • Give now to see your name on KDKA-TV!
  • Season’s Greetings! – December E-News
  • Please open – NPQ Needs your Help before Year End
  • Shop New LIVESTRONG Collection – Plus 20% Off Sale Items
  • 75%
  • Making every bird count
  • 5 reasons your holiday will be better than ever
  • Branch Out! Make a Beautiful Bird Ornament Saturday
  • Your Holiday Gift Catalog – All gifts matched
  • Your unique impact on Ebola
  • Celebrating Human Rights Day through Impact
  • Great Places: Guardians of the Great Bear Rainforest
  • Give the Gift of IU this Holiday Season
  • Want it by 12/24 with FREE delivery? Then open this email.
  • Moody Blues and Jason Mraz on sale this week!
  • Help feed a family in need this Christmas
  • Our Mission is to Help Other Nonprofits…
  • Remember this girl?
  • Now You Can Help Twice the Animals
  • South Carolina’s Natural Treasures Need You, Steve
  • Encore! Encore!
  • A Year of Unprecedented Emergencies Live Webcast – Dec 17
  • Great Gifts for Colleagues and Clients
  • Same Gift. Twice the Impact.
  • Dogs like Daisy need shelter this winter
  • My husband is no criminal: Help free him
  • A winter wonderland for kids in the hospital
  • A People With No Home
  • Save children’s lives.
  • InterAction’s Strategic Plan – December 2014 Newsletter
  • Disaster Alert: Typhoon Hagupit in the Philippines
  • still trying?
  • She’s Still Smiling
  • The Fast Metabolism Revolution
  • ‘Tis the 4th day of giving!
  • RE: Year-End Online Giving Article
  • Your last-minute holiday gift is here
  • Gift-giving got you stumped? We’ve got a wild idea.
  • Thank you – we’ll end pet homelessness, the seal hunt, and more
  • ☑ Your Holiday List with Green Gifts for Everyone
  • It’s Secret Santa–PETA-style!
  • Shop to Stop Diabetes with AmazonSmile
  • FREE shipping & all the cuddles you can handle!
  • Disaster Alert: Typhoon Hagupit
  • Hidden Lives of Australian Sheep
  • MHRH Shimmer: Less than one week left to get your tickets!
  • Watch what we did together
  • Steven, I’ll keep it short
  • Get cozy with us
  • 12 Days of Giving- Day 3!
  • VIDEO: How could this be the same dog?
  • Goats! Goats! Goats!
  • Thank you! (+Special Offer)
  • Interview: Locked Up With No Way Out
  • This is unprecedented
  • Cornell Lab eNews: Simple Feeder Dos and Don’ts, Holiday Gift Ideas—Plus Penguins!
  • ☑ Your Holiday List with Green Gifts for Everyone
  • Don’t keep this gift.
  • Five days left to ship your gift FREE
  • From the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico
  • Don’t Miss December Member Programs
  • Give the Gift of IU this Holiday Season
  • Did you miss it?
  • Shimmer Champagne Raffle to benefit the Women’s Imaging Center at the Redl Center for Cancer Care
  • Reminder – Outward Bound Co-presented Screening at The Rubin Museum in NYC – TONIGHT!
  • Keep dogs out of the cold this winter!
  • Gibbes Museum Art of Healing
  • Final Hours to give the best gift you can give the world
  • Last-Chance Wednesday
  • Drumroll please…
  • Do Dogs Require More Fossil Fuel than Hummers?
  • When Michael Moonwalked
  • HURRY! Three-for-One Offer Ends Today
  • Push us over the top!
  • It’s Not Too Late! Give the Gift of Opportunity Today!
  • It’s your moment to change a child’s future
  • Let’s turn “Giving Tuesday” into “12 Days of Giving”- starting today!
  • Give Back to Nature on #GivingTuesday
  • Don’t let #GivingTuesday go by….
  • For Years to Come
  • For Sick Kids on Giving Tuesday
  • #givingtuesday
  • #GivingTuesday
  • It’s not just any Tuesday.
  • Goats are no joke
  • Giving Tuesday
  • Today only! Your donation will DOUBLE!
  • Giving Tuesday 2014 is Here!
  • Today’s the day. Give 100%
  • Big plans
  • Celebrate #GivingTuesday – All Gifts Matched!
  • Friend, send a Gift from the Heart this #GivingTuesday
  • Celebrate Giving Tuesday with a gift that is matched 14x!
  • Keep our researchers on the ground
  • Today is the Day
  • Forest Pests Program – Thursday December 4, 2014 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
  • Your gift for the birds counts twice!
  • Give a gift that gives back
  • Empower Families on Giving Tuesday: The Greatest Gift of All
  • Celebrate #GivingTuesday by Changing Lives!
  • #GivingTuesday
  • NPQ can’t go on without you!
  • Counting for Significance
  • #GivetoChildrens on #GivingTuesday!
  • What’s special about today?
  • Giving Tuesday special: your gift matched
  • Do you know what day it is?
  • Today’s the day!
  • Today is #GivingTuesday!
  • RTPI Holiday Open House Sat December 6th, Special Guests and More
  • Join the Giving Tuesday Movement
  • Snow + Bathing Suits?
  • Can you help rescue a bear this Christmas?
  • #GivingTuesday – TODAY ONLY…Your gift is doubled!
  • Do you know what day it is?
  • Giving Tuesday: Your Gift Can Be Tripled!
  • #GivingTuesday is TODAY: Help grieving families & inspire others to give
  • Last Chance: Cyber Monday Offer Extended!
  • Cyber Monday Offer Extended!
  • Mr. MacLaughlin, an IU video for you
  • Jackie Evancho in Concert
  • Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday!
  • Give the gift of family
  • Save More Than Money This Cyber Monday!
  • Gibbes Museum King Street Antique Stroll
  • 48 hours
  • Keep our researchers on the ground
  • Feel good after Black Friday: save lives on Giving Tuesday
  • Holiday Drop-In Reminder
  • A gift for you, too
  • Three days only, three times the impact
  • Demand Liu Ping’s release
  • Additional 20% Off LIVESTRONG Sale Items
  • Cyber Monday MATCH: Unwrapped gifts go twice as far!
  • How cute is this little guy?
  • The Surprising Truth About Gift Cards
  • Everyone wants one
  • Hours remain to redeem this offer!
  • Here’s to another great year together!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve MacLaughlin is a Director of Analytics at Blackbaud where they leverage the company’s unique data assets to accelerate positive results for the nonprofit sector. Steve has spent more than 15 years building successful online initiatives with for-profit and nonprofit organizations across the world.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), Institute of Fundraising National Convention, Civil Society Conference, Resoure Alliance’s Fundraising Online, and a keynote speaker at such events as the Crescendo Practical Planned Giving Conference.

Steve serves on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and supports its focus on both the growth and professionalism of the nonprofit technology field as well as building knowledge and information sharing capacity throughout the sector.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

Get nonprofit articles, best practice advice, fundraising ideas and invaluable industry reports and webinars delivered for free!