get people to open your envelope

I know, I know, that’s so obvious it’s nearly insulting for me to say it. But it’s true. And it’s sad how many times good organizations lose income because they don’t work hard to get the letter opened.

The envelope your letter or newsletter arrives in is more important than anything inside it. The reason? Again obviously, if the envelope isn’t opened it doesn’t matter how glorious, wonderful and compelling your letter or ask were.

How do you ensure that your letter is opened? There are no guarantees. Even those few committed supporters who are literally waiting for your letter to arrive can miss it. So if they actually see it, how do you make sure they open it?

Get them on the envelope. If you’re like most direct mail strategists, you have teaser copy or art on the letter. Some organizations do successful direct mail without any art or copy on the outer envelope, but that’s not the strategy most of us find connects with people. Notice, my tricky phrase, “get them on the envelope.” In the example above, the mission needs my help. That’s great, lots of people “need” my help. So what? And below, they make sure I know that there are 610,000 people who are homeless in the US right now. OK, what does that mean to me? And they even have a call to action: “Help now! Give online.”

The problem is that they haven’t told me why I should help. They’ve made the org-centric mistake (organization-focused thinking) of assuming their need is my need.

Donor-Focused thinking says, “You can help 1 of the 610,000 people who are homeless today.”

Or “Your gift will change the life of 1 person who’s struggling.”

Or “You’ll love the feeling that comes from helping 1 family out of poverty.”

Donors and prospective donors have their interests in mind, not yours. They have to mentally translate “We need your help!” into “I can help.” And that’s a step you don’t want them to have to make since it is more likely that they’ll toss your letter in the shredder instead of taking that extra step.

Oh and here’s a bonus strategy that helps with your income but doesn’t require them to ever open the letter: Rather than just say “Give online.” What if you actually sent them to your dedicated giving page? How about that? We’ve tested this strategy and it seems to drive more income online, which is a good thing!

Get their names right! And get them on the envelope! That will help your income.

What about you? How do you get your donors on the envelope? How do you avoid “org-centric” thinking? I love hearing from you.


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: Steve Thomas)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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