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A headless doll on an abandoned farm

An email subject line you're dying to click

· INK SPOTS

"A headless doll on an abandoned farm"

That email subject line stood out among 50 emails in my inbox. Who in his right mind would not open that email? It reads like the opening line in a Dean Koontz novel. Killer!

I just wrote two articles about email subject lines in the non-profit industry (Getting the Click and Going from "Delete" to "Click!) in which I reviewed 300 emails and picked the good, the average, and the bad (and showed how to change the average and bad to good).

But the "headless doll" subject line is just too good to ignore.

What if non-profits loosened their collars and embraced a bit more mystery, grit, and derring-do? Those emails, that content, those newsletters would be opened and read. And if the content is persuasive, with an emotional connection, benefits, proof, and a strong CTA - acted on.

One caveat: don't overdo it. This "big idea" will work if not abused (don't walk in the woods along the same path every night at midnight).

But have the gumption to give it a shot every now and then - just when your email and content headlines begin to blur into monotonic sameness (love that phrase and its redundancy).

Here are 10 random non-profit email subject lines I received this week:

You're Helping Share God's Word

Uplifting . . .

Home at Last!

God brings miracles out of hardship

"You have to love people even if they hate you."

Changing lives together!

James, we live in a world desperate for hope!

Turmoil Brings Spiritual Opportunity

Imagine the joy they'll experience

James, your voice matters

Not bad. But nothing unique. Nothing pops.

 

Now, look at the above inbox list again, with one addition:

You're Helping Share God's Word

Uplifting . . .

Home at Last!

God brings miracles out of hardship

"You have to love people even if they hate you."

Changing lives together!

A headless doll on an abandoned farm

James, we live in a world desperate for hope!

Turmoil Brings Spiritual Opportunity

Imagine the joy they'll experience

James, your voice matters

Which one will you click first? Or which one will you click at all?

The headless doll! Yikes! Who beheaded it? Is there an ax-murderer psychopath in the woods? Why is the farm abandoned? Mystery . . . suspense . . . danger . . . tell me more, now!

How would this big idea translate to the non-profit world? Well, let's see. Many missions help the starving, the persecuted, the abandoned (children and women), the disabled, and those who have not heard the Good News or yearn to know more about God and Jesus.

Another caveat: tell the truth. The subject line and the story must be true. I don't think this will be much of a problem, however. So many people in dire circumstances need so much help.

A final caveat: the story must have a positive ending -- or, be one that, with your help, can have a positive outcome; the journey must be from struggle to victory. The people non-profits serve must always be respected, and the prospective donor must be the hero (he or she is urgently needed to change a life or lives; an emotional connection is made; and a relationship of trust is formed; the donor, in partnership with the non-profit, is making a difference).

What about these examples (see if you can figure out the situation underlying each email subject line; make up your own, too):

An ambush on the way to the water well

An empty plate, covered in mud

A single, torn shoe at the edge of the village

A trail of drag marks in the dirt

A blood-stained t-shirt under a bible . . .

Ten tiny footprints . . . then nothing

A burned-out house and a doll

Cries at dawn . . . laughter at dusk?

A distant voice . . . crying . . . or singing?

Tears on her pillow . . . rejoice?

Go rogue once in a while. Take a walk in the woods under a full moon . . . and see what happens.

_____

Attribution for the "headless doll" subject line and image: kudos to Tom Dyson (Postcards From the Fringe) www.rogueeconomics.com.

_____

LIGHT SPARK MEDIA

jw@lightsparkmedia.com

512-585-6019

Copyright 2020 James Wallace

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