Did your nonprofit raise the money you hoped to raise at the end of the year? If so, congratulations. But if not, maybe it’s because the donor never read your letter.
They might never have gotten past your envelope.
What Other Nonprofits Do with Envelopes
In November and December, I received over 100 appeal letters from 72 different organizations. That’s a lot of mail! And nobody has the time to read all the appeals they receive.
Donors figure out whether or not to toss your appeal in the recycling bin in seconds. They do it by looking at the envelope.
Most of the appeal letters I received did something on the front of the envelope to persuade me to look inside.
- 77 of 102 showed me the name of the organization that was mailing to me, with its return address. That established some credibility. (At the minimum, it made me less likely to worry that I’d open the envelope and find anthrax inside.)
- 61 of 102 also showed me the organization’s logo. That makes sense, too. A logo is designed to be instantly recognizable, and if I stop and say, “Oh, I know that,” I may get curious about what’s inside.
- 58 of 102 printed a teaser on the front of the envelope. It could have been a message from the organization, or a quote from a person whose life had improved because of the nonprofit.
When Brittany went looking for like-minded veterans, she found About Face.
We need you. This is a time for action–not for standing on the sidelines. (from J Street)
Even the envelopes that say only “Immediate Attention Requested” make me think a moment longer…and that means I’m more likely to rip them open and see what’s inside. As you want me to do!
6 Ways Your Envelope Could Stand Out
You could mimic the other nonprofits to give yourself an equal shot at your donor’s attention. But here are six ideas to make your envelope pop out from that tall stack of envelopes I showed you.
- Print a graphic on the envelope. If you can go full-color like the Greater Boston Food Bank did, so much the better. But even a line drawing will catch my eye.
- Put a stamp on it. Yes, an honest-to-goodness, first-class stamp, like you’ d see on a holiday card from your favorite aunt.
- Use an unusual size envelope. Did somebody say “card”?
- Use an unusual color envelope. In that pile of appeal letters I showed you up above, see the green one sticking out? Don’t you want to know what this?
- Have a real person’s name on the return address. It could be your Executive Director, or it could be Toni Morrison. Either way, it makes your donor hesitate to throw the envelope away.
- Handwrite the donor’s name and address. Here’s where being a small nonprofit could help. You’re not going to hand-address 10,000 envelopes, but if you have 150 donors–or you can pick out 150 from your list that you especially want to reach–handwriting in real ink will make it personal, not personalized.
Beyond the Envelope
Every Tuesday in January and February, we’re going to look back at those 102 appeal letters I received–and look forward to what you can do better this year. Stay tuned to Fundraising Tuesdays on Communicate!
Next up: dear friend???
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