A lot of fundraising writers have it all wrong (in my opinion). They work for hours to develop copy that reads well, tells a great story, has a clear ask, and compels the recipient to open up the wallet and respond. The reply form is easy to use, and the insert advances the case to give.
But it isn’t until the last minute that they write the envelope teaser — that often-maligned “sales” copy printed on the front of the envelope. (For nonprofits using e-mail appeals, the subject line is the equivalent of the teaser.)
Let’s think like a donor for a minute. He or she sees your envelope first — and maybe last. If there is nothing that captures attention, you’re sunk. No matter what is in the envelope, your potential donor won’t see it. Your brilliant letter and award-winning photography has just been consigned to the recycling bin or trash can. Ditto on the e-appeal. If the subject line isn’t appealing, the e-mail is deleted. Worse, if the subject line is offensive or just boring, you could be eternally relegated to “junk sender” status.
So, let’s turn the process around and think first about what is going to get a donor into the envelope. Here are a few ideas from my mailbox.
A ‘double whammy’
You know that big, blank backside of your envelope? Use it! Add a second teaser to increase your chances of capturing attention. Of the envelopes on my desk from the last week, more than half have huge, white (or Kraft) backs that are devoid of any compelling copy. There’s usually some printing (recycled paper logo, a mail code or return address), but nothing that gives me one last chance to reconsider and look inside. Adding a second teaser there costs nothing — and could get a potential donor to open the envelope.
Yes, that’s right. An envelope that is addressed to the donor and has a live stamp (even the nonprofit stamp) appeals simply because of the unknown. The recipient thinks, “I don’t know who this is from, so I’ll take a few seconds to check it out.” Of course, your job then is to be sure you don’t disappoint — you must deliver with a great opening paragraph.
‘RSVP Requested’ or ‘The favor of a reply is requested’
These teasers are great for older audiences who still feel a compulsion to honor the request to respond (and know what RSVP means). It probably won’t work with adults who aren’t compelled to respond to invitations, but rather just show up if they can. Test it before you put it on 100,000 acquisition mailings.
‘Urgent membership information enclosed’
Membership in a nonprofit — even without any benefits — appeals to some donor demographics. However, others aren’t willing or able to commit to the “baggage” that membership implies in their minds. If a lapsed donor or prospect isn’t responding to your membership offers, test a non-membership mailing asking for a one-time gift for a great project.
‘Your free gifts are enclosed (or waiting)’
That’s always a great way to get someone inside the envelope, but monitor to be certain you aren’t creating a file of premium collectors. I used to work for a nonprofit that offered a book every month. If the book seemed interesting, we did well. If the book didn’t resonate as well with donors, we didn’t do as well. We had inadvertently created a “book-of-the-month” club instead of a cadre of loyal supporters.
Great photos or intriguing questions
A strong, four-color photo gets a second look, and questions that a person really wants to know the answer to get the recipient to open the envelope. But avoid obvious questions; people who are talked down to are not likely to become donors.
If my mail is any judge of the state of the industry, the outer envelope is an often-ignored element of the direct-mail package. Insist on a hard-working carrier — one that safely transports your mailing to the donor’s mailbox, but also demands to be opened.
Originally posted in NonProfit Pro.