How to Create Compelling Direct Mail Fundraising Envelopes

By Billy Sharma

One of the hardest things to do in direct marketing is to get the recipient to open your direct mail package, therefore, the outer envelope is of prime importance. Its function is more than just holding the contents securely; it must entice the respondent to I open it.

Siegfried Vogele, a research professor of direct marketing, observed that the average person spends between five and fifteen seconds scanning their mail, screening and rejecting what to open, what to discard or what to save for later, all in the proximity of their wastebasket.

If your direct mail piece never gets opened, your message never gets read. So how do you ensure that your piece survives? Here are some simple yet effective ways to ensure that your direct mail piece is opened:

The first thing that goes through a recipient’s mind is WIIFM. What’s-in-it-for-me” Why is this company writing to me? What do they want from me? Remember, you are intruding on someone’s time, so make sure the piece has some relevance to the recipient. Otherwise you are just producing junk mail.

Provide a hint of what’s inside. Partially revealing the contents through a window can be exceedingly effective. Many books have suggested this, but the most conclusive evidence is a piece of research that tested two envelopes.

One had simply the words ‘Free Book Inside’. The other had a large window that partially revealed an actual book with the same words, ‘Free Book Inside’. The envelope that revealed the book out pulled the other by 30%.

Clear polybags display the entire contents. Polybags are great for mailing unique offers, posters or several booklets or multiple pieces. Publishers and catalogues use polybags extensively.

Capture the reader’s imagination. Remember that if the reader can decipher what you are selling without even opening the envelope, then it is a bad envelope. The bad envelopes do not reveal everyt5hing-they only tantalize you to look inside.

Use teaser copy. Teaser copy can arouse curiosity and interest, either by using a provocative statement or by asking a question. The teaser can be a partial one to lead the recipient inside or it can be split on the front and back of the envelope. If it is enticing, the recipient will flip it over to get the complete message.

When targeting a very select group, the message should be meaningful to the audience. For example, “Your copy of a report on osteoporosis” is more likely to be opened by someone concerned with osteoporosis.

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Excerpted from The Handbook of Direct Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations, by Billy Sharma. Available in paperback from www.expertfundraiser.org

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The Art and Science of Keeping a Direct Mail Donor

By Billy Sharma

The art lies in building and fostering a strong bond with your supporters. This is best achieved through compelling communications and quick responses to their generosity.

  • Your appeal must give a persuasive reason for giving and should identify the financial goals essential to your charity
  • Work to understand your donors and offer them an appropriate plan of action
  • When a gift comes in, send a thank you promptly

The science is how you use the data, research and testing methods available to you.

  • Segment your donor files. Remember the RFM (Recency, Frequency and Monetary Value) rules of direct marketing
  • Spend more time, effort and money on people who have given more recently, more frequently and more generously. They are the most likely to give again and could very well keep increasing their donation amounts. They are also the ones who need to be constantly reminded about your organization and should receive more communication pieces annually
  • Research and test what works best for which group of donors
  • Use data mining to determine affinity for giving. Some donors have a higher propensity to give than others. You could determine this by researching their lifestyle behavior and or just by noting their postal or area codes
  • Track your donors’ giving history in terms of size and frequency of giving

Know your Donors

New Donors are first time givers.

Transition Donors are those who give sporadically. They have a history of giving once in a while in a 16-24 month period.

Core Donors are those who have given a gift to the charity regularly either each year or within sixteen months.

High Value Donors are those who give big gifts.

Lapsed Donors are those who have stopped giving. They fall into two categories:

  • Recently Lapsed donors who have not given in the last 13-24 months;
  • Deeply Lapsed donors who have not given in the past 25 months.

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Excerpted from The Handbook of Direct Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations, by Billy Sharma. Available in paperback from www.expertfundraiser.org

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