Email Subject Line Inspiration for Charities

The subject line is arguably the most important part of your email campaign; it’s the first impression that you make and your best chance to stand out in a busy inbox filled with messages all demanding the recipient’s attention.

For inspiration, check out the subject lines below, which came from a brainstorming exercise at the Digital Charity Lab ‘Improving Your Charity’s Emails’ Workshop. Each group took a theme  that you can use when developing your subject lines – themes that are likely to provoke a response in the user.

(In the exercise we chose an appeal for Syria as the topic)

Time focused

Create a sense of urgency, so the subscriber feels they need to open the email right now, rather than filing it to read later.

  • You have 24 hrs left to save Maria
  • Syria: time is running out
  • Tomorrow will be too late to save Maria
  • Do you have 20 seconds to spare?


By asking a question, you can open a conversation. Phrase the question well and the subscriber will be compelled to click through to discover the answer.

  • What would YOU do with 1 million children?
  • Syria – how can you help?
  • What does Kobani look like today?
  • It seems kind of futile, doesn’t it?
  • How has your donation helped Ahmed?
  • What do you and Ahmed have in common?


Possibly the most powerful approach to take. Directly point out how the situation is relevant to the subscriber.

  • Find out how you can help 3 million children today
  • You saved a life last year – will you save a life today?
  • You can save a life today


Try something cryptic or compelling, that will stand out in the inbox and pique the user’s interest. Don’t overdo this one though!

  • Do you know what a barrel bomb does?
  • Where are the refugees going?
  • 1 million have left, 3 million are left behind
  • Which of these two would you choose <name>?

Big thanks to everyone who participated in our workshop and helped come up with these great ideas.

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