How to show the right grat­i­tude atti­tude to new e‑mail subscribers

The first e‑mail you send to new sub­scribers is cru­cial, as it will inform whether or not they open any sub­se­quent mes­sages. In this handy guide, Ephraim Gopin explains how to ensure you start off on the front foot.

Written by
Ephraim Gopin
March 18, 2021

Someone has subscribed to your e-newsletter? WOOHOO!

Of course you have an auto e-mail sent immediately to their inbox with a request for a donation, right?


Let’s start with a proper thank you. You should have a thank you message pop-up on your site after someone subscribes and a welcome e-mail should automatically be delivered to their inbox. This e-mail is important because it’s your first touch point with a new subscriber. 

So here are eight best practices and tips for ensuring that your welcome e-mail begins the organisation-subscriber relationship on the right foot:


The email should arrive a second after someone clicks ‘subscribe’ on your website signup form. Why? 86 per cent of people open a welcome e-mail! They just signed up, so say a proper thank you and make them feel welcome right from the get-go. Odds are they will open that welcome e-mail.

Mobile friendly

62 per cent of e-mails are opened on phones. That means your e-mails must be mobile friendly. If they’re not, people won’t read your e-mail. Additionally, a subscriber may assume that all subsequent e-mails will be difficult to read and won’t open any more of them or worse, unsubscribe. 

They just subscribed. Make sure your welcome e-mail experience is a positive one!

Good subject line

Your subject line for this all-important first email needs to stand out. Most people open this e-mail but they still need a push to do so. Your subject line provides that.

For example, the ACLU uses, ‘You’re part of a powerful team’. As a new subscriber, I already feel part of something bigger and want to learn more.

Sent by a person

E-mail communications should be a one-to-one experience. When your welcome e-mail comes from, you’re missing an opportunity. The e-mail address of the sender (that’s your organisation) should have a name in it. This person is now starting a one-to-one relationship with me, a new subscriber.


In my previous post, I mentioned that your website signup form should only ask for an e-mail address. But if you add a first name field, then your welcome e-mail (and most subsequent e-mails) should address me by name. Don’t ask me for my first name but then send an e-mail that starts with ‘Dear Supporter’. That hurts the relationship and tells me where your interests lie (less me, more you).

Tip: Sometimes people misspell their first name. It happens. It’s also possible they didn’t realise it when they filled in your form.

Your auto welcome e-mail is going to misspell your subscriber’s first name. That’s not going to make a great first impression! If you’re 100 per cent sure they misspelled their name in your signup form, send them an e-mail (as soon as possible) requesting the correct spelling of their name. Let the subscriber know it is important to your organisation to address them correctly. My guess is you’ll get a response with a big laughing emoji or an oopsie and they’ll confirm the correct spelling of their name.

Don’t be shy. Reach out and make sure the information you have is correct. It helps strengthen trust in the relationship you’re trying to build with subscribers.

Easy on the eye

Have you heard the term ‘design golf?’ I learned it from the fine folks at Really Good Emails.

The goal of golf is to achieve the lowest score possible. When it comes to e-mails, your goal should be to include the fewest design elements possible. Too much and it causes sensory overload for the user. 

Have you ever received an e-mail which had three different font sizes, some of the font was centre-aligned while some was left-aligned, there were four different buttons and each was a different colour and parts of the e-mail were bolded, some italicised and others highlighted in yellow? Now think about it: did you actually read through the e-mail or delete it after the design elements kept shifting?

Keep the design simple. Make it easy for subscribers to scan, read and take action.

Warm and friendly

It’s not a given that someone will allow you access to their overflowing inbox. So just like you do with donors (or at least I hope you do!), your ‘thank you for subscribing’ e-mail should be heartfelt, warm and full of gratitude.

Save The Children open their e-mail with ‘Welcome to the Save the Children Family’. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee opens with ‘Welcome to team JDC’. Right away I feel part of something warm (family) and part of a larger community (team).

Beyond the welcome are expressions of gratitude that make me feel wanted and appreciated. If the goal is to convert subscribers into donors, that starts with an initial e-mail that causes new subscribers to feel good and want to open subsequent ones.

Set expectations

‘We’ll be in touch every now and then’ is a great way to ensure new subscribers don’t open your e-mails again. Tell them the newsletter will arrive daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. Use this first e-mail to make sure subscribers know what to expect from your organisation in terms of e-mail delivery.

Should you ask?

No. Never. Absolutely not. Don’t do it.

At the outset of this post, I mentioned asking for a donation from new subscribers in the welcome e-mail. Don’t do it. 

To quote fundraising copywriting expert Julie Cooper‘Asking a new subscriber to donate- or do anything significant right away- is like asking you to marry them on the first date’.

In fact, there should be no ask during the ‘e-mail welcome series’ phase. Your first bunch of e-mails should be aimed at introducing the organisation to new subscribers, educating them, maybe asking them to take part in a quiz or survey. But no ask. The first ask can come at the end of that series, once they understand the value of giving to your organisation. (On Julie’s website- link above- download her free ‘welcome series’ eBook and learn how to properly greet new e-mail subscribers.)

Using the best practices and tips above will help you start off your relationship with new subscribers on the right foot. A gratitude attitude isn’t just for fundraising!

About the author: Ephraim Gopin

Ephraim is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps non-profits build more relationships so they can raise more money, serve more people and have more impact in the community. Ephraim crafts strategies which help non-profits upgrade their fundraising and marketing efforts. Ephraim is always happy to connect with non-profit pros on Twitter and on LinkedIn. Ephraim is the publisher of the very popular daily enewsletter Your Daily Dose of Nonprofit.

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