Nine Little Words: Shorter Subject Lines Work Best For Association Emails

Associations live and die by their email marketing. And there are signs that they are getting better at it.  

Open rates improved in 2023, the average being 38.18%, up from 34.63% in 2022, according to The Higher Logic Thrive 2023 Association Benchmark Report, a study from Higher Logic. Mobile opens fell to 2.85%, versus 2.34% in the prior year. 

For starters, this may be because groups are improving their subject lines.  

The most effective subject lines have under nine characters. Those that did pulled an average open rate of 43.99% in 2023. In contrast, the rate for subject lines with 30-39 words was 37.57%. 

In addition, subject lines with less than 29 characters exceeded the 2023 average.

The study counsels that open rates “tend to be higher for emails sent to smaller lists, with the highest average open rates on emails sent to less than 500 people.  



Why? Because “smaller list sizes usually indicate a more personalized, targeted message that specifically addresses the needs of a particular audience segment.

Timing is another issue. By day, it appears that Thursday and Friday pull the highest opens, although the study cautions that there are no clear winners by day:

  • Monday — 36.29% 
  • Tuesday — 36.34%
  • Wednesday — 35.89%
  • Thursday — 36.45% 
  • Friday — 36.92%% 

The click rate results may be a little clearer, with Wednesday being the top day:

  • Monday — 2.03%
  • Tuesday — 2.05%
  • Wednesday — 2.27% 
  • Thursday — 1.98%
  • Friday — 1.96 
  • Saturday — 1.64% 
  • Sunday — 2.03% 

Messages personalized with dynamic content pull an average open rate of 46.83%. Those without draw 38.18%.

Similarly, click rates with dynamic content achieve a 3.24% click rate, compared to 2.71% for those without. 

All this may seem a little self-serving, given that the company is an engagement platform that helps associations with their email marketing. These metrics cover its customer base. 

Messages sent with marketing automation pull a 38.83% open rate and a 3.05% click rate. ‘

In contrast, single sends generate a 36.34% open rate and 2.7% click rate.  

Recipients are reading their emails on:

  • Web browser (e.g., Google, Chrome) — 33.99%
  • Web client (e.g., Gmail) — 24.42% 
  • Mobile client — 7.49%
  • Desktop client — 3.79%

Canada achieves the highest deliverability rates: 98.9%. The U.S. is second with 98.7%, but that is still higher than the global average: 98.6%.

Associations that wish to perk up their email are advised to:

  • Optimize send times 
  • Clean up their email list 
  • Test emails for Gmail’s promotion tab 
  • Segment their subscribers

This report analyzes email marketing metrics from approximately 1,500 organizations and nearly 2 billion emails sent in 2022 and 2023 by associations located in the United States, Australia, and Canada. 

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