My guess is that you’re starting to think about your year-end appeal. Good!
Because between mid November and December 31st many nonprofits will realize as much as 40% or more of their total giving for the calendar year. In fact, there’s research showing that 33% of December giving occurs on December 31st!
The holidays are a time when folks tend to feel grateful. They count their blessings and begin to get into a giving mood. If you’re not putting forward your most compelling fundraising offer at a time when folks are primed to give the most, you’re really missing your best opportunity.
I truly encourage you to SEIZE THE DAY and put forth your most compelling fundraising offer possible at this critical time of year. What makes a compelling fundraising offer? Aha! There’s a lot of art and science that goes into it (which I’ll be covering in great detail in my upcoming 5-week E-Course: Your Ultimate Guide to Successful Year-End Fundraising Appeals), but for now I want to concentrate on one significant – and often overlooked – piece of the year-end appeal puzzle.
Your carrier envelope must inspire folks to open it!
You can spend oodles of time crafting the most perfectly compelling copy in the universe. But if no one opens your envelope then you’ve completely wasted this effort. Time and time again I see nonprofits not even think about their envelope until the very last minute. By then there’s no time to think about it, let alone get what you finally do come up with printed!
Your appeal is no good if the envelope gets tossed right away. I receive my mail in my garage. I stand over my recycling bin, trying to discern which pieces will go there immediately, and which will get carried upstairs into the house. What will get your reader to bring your letter inside? Consider the following:
Plain envelope. I’m a huge fan of the plain white envelope with nothing. No logo. Not even your name. Just a return address (and a place where a volunteer who is adding personal notes can hand write their own name). It’s hard for folks to simply toss a mysterious plain envelope. Note: the post office won’t allow this unless you’re using a first-class stamp, so it’s for renewal and warm prospecting letters more than for direct mail acquisition.
Colored envelope. This is something to test. I’ve had a lot of success with brightly colored envelopes that don’t even match the design of the enclosed appeal. They simply stand out in the mail box and do their job of getting opened. Others have success using their brand colors so folks (who are already loyal) recognize them and open them because they love them.
Oversized envelope. This is another trick to get folks to take notice. An oversized envelope stands out in the mail. Of course, it requires extra postage and this can backfire, making folks think you’re using money for the wrong purposes. It works best for event invitations rather than annual appeals.
Envelope teaser. Direct mail fundraising guru Mal Warwick describes a range of needs that can be accomplished with a teaser, ranging from describing what’s inside to asking a question to starting a story. He also says “Often the best teaser is no teaser at all. Fundraising letters are almost always crafted to mimic personal letters, so teasers may well cheapen or undermine the effect the writer wants to achieve.” Use some judgment. And ask folks outside your office if the teaser would turn them on or off. And begin your own collection at home, noting which teasers get you to open the envelopes and which you’d be inclined to toss.
Do you have other tips for envelopes that scream “Open Me!”? Please share.
Once it’s opened… Make your appeal count!
Why not make this the year you really take things up a notch and hit a home run with your appeal? Grab Anatomy of a Fundraising Appeal Letter plus Sample Template. You’ll get everything you need to craft a killer appeal letter! Check out what’s included here. Or buy it now! You can’t go wrong. It’s guaranteed… or your money back.
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I loved the idea to use an oversized envelope. Like you suggest, it is hard to miss so people’s interest gets piqued easier. I also like, however, the idea to just use a plain white envelope. Not only is this cost effective and simple, but it makes people feel like the appeal was specialized specifically for them. They feel important and a part of something. I think that this will give you a good face and make people more interested. Thanks for all of your insight. These different options really gave me something to think about when deciding how to mail out my fundraiser appeals.