Have you ever been shopping and run across a piece of clothing that reads “One Size Fits All”? My first reaction is always: false! Specifically when it comes to hats—my head is definitely larger than “all” (Believe me – I’ve tried).  Or have you ever tried to replicate a celebrity hairstyle? I have. Apparently what works for Jennifer Aniston doesn’t quite work for me.

There is rarely an appropriate case for a “one size fits all” approach. We’re all different. We don’t fit into a specific mold. And neither do your donors. 

Remember that when you go to send an email to your entire housefile.

Today, email is pouring into our inboxes at a rapid pace and most marketers are trying to think of the next clever subject line or incentive to get the best click throughs and open rates as possible.  And while beautiful content and copy are definitely important, segmenting your donors is key to the success of your overall strategy.

New to segmentation? Check out this older blog post that is definitely still relevant today.  If you don’t have time to read this right now, I will sum it up very briefly: The worst thing you can do is not segment your audience. There is a lot of good stuff in the article, but let’s focus on simple segmentation for these purposes. How can you do simple segmentation today to build better rapport, reduce unsubscribes, boost response rates and, my personal favorite, create a more engaged constituent?

Below I’ve created subject lines for 6 of the most common segments in your database:

1. Welcome to #teamawesome.

The new donor or potential donor. They just gave their first gift or they showed interest by signing up for your newsletter, so be thoughtful with your follow-up! Engage them with a welcome series—let them know how their support with have impact, tell them where their donation is going, share updates about what’s coming up, and ask them about what matters to them and how they want to make a difference. Your new donor or prospect might just turn into your next major or recurring giver, if you put in the right amount of TLC.

2. We know.. You’ve been waiting all year for this.

This is for your yearly gift-giver who has yet to give this year. Let’s hope it’s on their “to do” list, but a little gentle reminder never hurt anyone. Something like “Hey, we appreciate what you do for us every year—we’ve done some incredible things together, haven’t we? We want to keep doing incredible things with you. Your support this year matters to us as much as ever. Will you help us?”

3. Your support is major to our mission.

Your major donor! Don’t lose them by sending blanketed communications. It’s crucial that you truly understand them as individuals: What matters to them and why did they decide to give your organization? Make them feel special by recognizing and acknowledging the impact they’ve helped you create.

4. Thanks for being a super hero every single month.

Recurring donors are some of your most loyal supporters. They have committed to giving to your organization on a regular basis and deserve updates on how their support is advancing your mission. Consider something like a video newsletter that gives them updates on what’s happening, how you’ve made a difference, and what’s next.

5. We want you back.

For the lapsed donor. Get them back on track by reminding them of the need. Remind them why they gave to you in the first place. Your organization has been doing some cool stuff and you need their support. Hit them with a compelling story that will draw them in again. Demonstrate to them what would be possible with their support.

6. We get it – it’s time to leave. But was it something we said? 

For your non-opener, this is a sensitive subject. If someone in your housefile hasn’t opened your email in the past year, they probably won’t open one any time soon. I wonder what would happen if they thought you weren’t going to send them an email any longer. Remember that when it comes to your housefile, it’s quality over quantity.

Obviously, these subject lines are for fun and I don’t actually recommend you using them. But I do think sometimes a little fun may peek interest and intrigue your donors to open, read, give, give more. So start segmenting and thinking of clever subject lines (they matter A LOT) to engage your different audience more efficiently!

Check out our upcoming webinar “Lists and Segmentation 101: Slicing and Dicing for Better Results”for some more tips and tricks on segmenting your housefile.


Michele is a customer success program manager at Blackbaud, helping customers utilize their Blackbaud online fundraising tools. She has been with Blackbaud almost 5 years and loves to get to know the customers she works with personally. She has a serious passion for online fundraising and you can find her reading blogs and picking the brains of the talented people surrounding her. When she is not reading every post on npEngage she is enjoying the food and sun in Charleston, SC where she currently resides.

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