First, just over a week ago, a spirited little fellow named @fundraisingyoda showed up on our twitter door step with his inspired and fun thoughts about fundraising and there have been a few posts that have been written about him here and here.
There is even a twitter chat taking place tomorrow night at 9 pm EST that he, and a number of other wise fundraising jedi’s will be taking part in – hopefully you can follow a long or take part in #NFPmentors.
But today for you, we have an inspired direct mail 101 case study to share with you. A while back, we wrote a piece called 50 things (at least!) not to do in your direct mail appeal… today is a post about many things RIGHT you can do with your direct mail.
I got a message from the wonderful FundraiserGrrl herself, Rory Green asking if such a direct mail 101 guide existed – and once she told me her idea for this piece, I KNEW I had to be a part of it. Her and I have emailed, laughed, edited and designed this pack just for you – direct mail nerds and newbies a like!
We are happy to present “may the force be with you when you design your next great direct mail piece“… or something like that. (Please note – most of the recommendations and suggestions here are based on years of testing and best practicing… when in doubt – TEST it with your own file – what you learn may surprise you!)
Your outer envelope (OE):
- Should be almost anything other than a white, #10 envelope with a window (or whatever the standard size that 99% of charities are using in your country). This is a 9″ x 6″.
- More often than not – a envelope with your logo and return will outperform ANY other creative.
- Commemorative stamp – it will almost always beat a normal stamp, which is better than an metre which is better than an indicia which is better than no postal. In that order.
- Tagline: Emergency Appeal! This looks urgent and sounds urgent! Your donor wants to know how it can help right now!
- No window usually beats having a window on your envelope. Windows subconsciously say “bill”.
- Handwriting – either by hand or using a handwriting font – adds a touch of personality and is more apt to get noticed and opened.
- Cheap – this envelope isn’t full colour and doesn’t look like it cost a bazillion dollars to make – it looks pretty thrown together. And that’s a good thing.
- 2 colours – red and black – the colours of the alliance. Don’t design with or pay for 4 colours if you don’t need to. Design appropriately my friends!
- The first thing I see – as a donor – is my name. Dear Joan.
- Simple design – the only thing to look at here is the letter. A donor will read their name, any underlining, turn it over and read the PS. Then, they MIGHT actually read the whole letter if those things seem interesting to them.
- Start with a story. “I would give anything for one more hug from my father.” OMG – who can’t relate to that? What happened to her father? I’m visualizing mine and I love him – this sounds horrible for whoever is writing me and I haven’t read anything else yet… what happened?
- Say thank you as soon as you can. We asked for help before and that’s what you did. You gave $500 Alliance credits and you are amazing! This is how that gift helped! Very specific! A great reminder of the good feelings your donor likely had when they last gave!
- Remind them of how the gift help, how they inspired action!
- No FANCY jargon!
- Handwriting – please turn over… stopping the first page mid sentence begs for the letter to be turned over to complete the thought. This matters!
- Font: courier. As big as possible – 13 point here. Courier is likely one of the most – if not THE most effective font in direct mail. It works! I can practically hear the letter writer sitting in the dark quickly hammering this out on her typewriter.
- Underlining! In hand! Someone has taken the time to point out the important stuff here with underlining and surprise: it is about the donor!
- Story: you helped fix something last time, here is a new inspiring way you can help fix something today.
- Ask for a specific gift (s). If you ask for $750 Alliance credits – what will that pay for? How will it help make a difference?
- Inspire positive change: this will no longer happen or be a problem with your amazing gift.
- More personalization.
- Inspired letter writer – not a droning Executive Director! Someone with passion please (and if that’s your ED – then go for it!!)
- Handwritten PS – please reiterate your offer! This may be the only thing people read – make sure they know what you want from them!
- Photo of writer – this is a real person! In this case, Princess Leia looks focused and ready for battle – will you help her?
- Colour – keep it simple – you want your donor to read this passionate letter – not get distracted by shiny boxes or tiny crappy images…
- One page. Full size.
- Personalized just for your donor! They like to see their name and think this was made just for them!
- YES line: I WANT TO HELP LUKE TODAY! Remind the donor of what you want from them – simply!
- Luke sticker? A small, inexpensive sticker can have great impact – peel of the sticker of luke and with your action of placing it on the coupon – you will save the alliance! Involvement can be VERY empowering!
- Simple ask – if I asked for $750 in the letter, that’s all I should be asking for on the coupon – not monthly, or to volunteer, or do i want more information about legacies, etc.
- Lots of space to write.
- A thank you!
- More handwriting! It won’t get missed!
- Personalized with the donor mailing address – the less work a donor needs to do to give, the more likely they will give.
- Use this to help Luke and save the universe. who doesn’t want to do that?
Your lift note
- “Lift” notes of any kind usually “lift” the response of the piece.
- Use it to tell more of the story and appeal to the brain – assuming you have already appealed to the heart and soul of your donor
- Use a contrasting voice to the letter writer.
- Go into greater detail about what a donor’s gift will do.
- Be creative! But flush out any remaining missing pieces for the case for support.
Also for consideration:
- pre email blasting a tease message and a note to watch for this very important pack in mailboxes
- post email blasting with a re-iteration of the ask and link to give – which will take me to a donate page that has this same information on it
- a reminder pack – a slimmed down version of this pack which may move someone to pick it up again and give if they forgot the first time
- echoing some creative on your homepage, your emails, your donation page
Did we miss anything? Or do you feel like adding a few other tips that might make this better – please let us know!
Addition: Margaux Smith pointed out that we forgot to include the very important Business Reply Envelope. So here it is.
Your Business Reply Envelope (BRE)
Often overlooked (just like we did) the BRE is likely one of the most important pieces of your direct mail pack. Without it, most of you direct mail donors will fail to send in a gift. Adding a BRE (9″ x 4″) makes it as easy as possible for them to give. I’ve designed two versions.
- A stamped BRE costs more, but usually increases the response rate and average gift. I haven’t tested this in a while, but you could! And then let us know how it does!
- The more typical BRE. Room for donors to write their return address is nice but not needed.
- If your BRE can echo your appeal – even better!
- PLEASE forget about including the little message – “your stamp will help save costs…” Tested through the years by Steve Thomas, it usually hurts your response. Steve_thomas_ littlemessage!