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Non-Profit E-Marketing: Outfitting a Better First Impression

Non-Profit E-Marketing: The First Impression

Most of us know that you should use tables to build emails, design above the fold and for mobile, and the width of the email should be somewhere around 600 pixels.

I tend to think of an email like a first impression. Below are must-have email components that should be included in all non-profit marketing emails for outfitting a better first impression.

The Subject Line: Like the Eyes…

…which are said to be the window into the soul, the subject line is the window or preview into the heart of an email. Next to the sender’s name, it is the first thing the recipient sees.

It is normally where you see the general topic of an email and probably the most important component of an email since it determines if your email is opened, deleted, or sent to junk mail.



Keep in mind that the subject line you use will depend on the nature and goal of the email (e.g. informative, acquisition, etc.). However, when creating subject lines you should:

  • Be truthful about what’s in store for the email but also provide enough intrigue so that it entices recipients to open it.
  • Be descriptive and compelling. Try to show value from the start so that it’s worth the recipient’s time to open the email.
  • Be personal yet professional because what appeals to some recipients may not appeal to the masses.
  • Be concise. You should limit your subject line to 50 characters or less as subscribers see only the first 40-70 characters depending on the email tool.
  • Stay away from spam triggers such as “Free”, “Click Here”, “Urgent”, or “Subscribe”.


The Pre-header: Like an Awesome Accessory…

…that accentuates the face, the pre-header accentuates the subject line and entices recipients to read the entire email. It is the line or two of text right above the header on the email and generally the first thing recipients see when opening an email.

Many email tools block images by default so pre-headers enable you to still show a message if images are not shown. Aside from being displayed at the top of an email, pre-header text is also automatically referenced in the recipient’s inbox preview.

Keep in mind that Gmail will cut off snippet text after 50-100 characters depending on the email tool.


  • 51 percent of people will delete an email within two seconds of opening it.


Use the pre-header to:

  • Reinforce the subject line by expanding on, rewording, or highlighting a second benefit.
  • Communicate valuable information such as a summary of the email.
  • Draw the recipient into the heart of the email.
  • Reinforce or compliment the CTA.
  • Include a view in browser or forward to a friend link.


American Cancer Society Pre-header (Preview Pane)

Cancer Society Pre-header in Email

American Cancer Society Pre-header (Actual Email)

Cancer Society Pre-header


The Header: Like a Great Haircut…

…that compliments your overall look, the header accentuates the main content and heart of the email. It often takes the form of a banner or hero image and sums up the most interesting and enticing information of the main content. It is seen after the pre-header.



  • Design in a way that will engage recipients quickly and make them interact with the rest of the offer.
  • Design above the fold which is generally 400-450 pixels high.
  • Include your company’s logo to increase brand recognition and trust.
  • Include a CTA such as a button that leads to a website.
  • While this is debatable, some suggest including share options for social media.


The Body: Like the Perfect Outfit…

…that accentuates your figure and is the heart of your overall look, the body copy contains the overall heart of the email and is the cornerstone of the content that generates conversions. It generally includes the salutation (which sets the tone of the body copy) and expounds on the CTA.



  • Try not to be too formal or impersonal. Use variables so that you can address the recipient’s first name.
  • Keep your messages short and concise and deliver information in a digestible way.
  • Tailor your body copy to segmented lists by using dynamic content.
  • Use a P.S. to reiterate an offer or to attract the attention of those who only scan emails (such as myself).


The Footer: Like the Right Shoes…

…that tie your entire look together and provide protection and stability, the footer helps to establish credibility and further your reputation. It’s generally used to express legal jargon and contact information but also gives recipients a way to communicate with your organization.


  • Email messages including at least three social sharing icons generate over 55 percent higher CTR than emails without any social sharing options.
  • Twitter seems to be the most popular social sharing option, included in 67.2 percent of all social emails; Facebook comes in a close second at 62.7 percent.


  • Per CAN-SPAM guidelines you must include a physical address and opt out (unsubscribe) information for commercial emails.
  • Include social media and share links.
  • Include copyright information to protect your intellectual property.
  • Include a link to your privacy policy to promote trustworthiness.
  • Consider including your logo so that you can reiterate your brand.
  • Include a direct link to your company website so that recipients can have access to information about your company.


American Cancer Society Footer

Cancer Society Pre-header in Email



Remember, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression so make it count. And when in doubt – TEST, TEST, TEST.

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