How to Get Your Donors to Open Your Mail

Last week I received something in the mail that I just HAD to open. And, let me tell you, this does not happen often! If you have ever wondered or worried if your letters, invitations and thank you notes are being read—or even opened!—by your donors, read on for three simple tips to help skyrocket open rates for your mail.

1. Ditch the plain white envelope

The first thing you may notice about my mail (pictured here) is the color of the envelope. Hurrah for bright orange! Am I right? Even among the colorful competition in my mailbox—red, white and blue Independence Day flyers, BOGO offers from a local restaurant, a mortgage offer stamped “OPEN IMMEDIATELY”—this envelope stood out.

Why send your mail in plain white (yawn) when there are virtually limitless colors to choose from?

And don’t use regular size business envelopes (#10) when you could use a greeting card envelope (size A6) instead. You’ll pay the same postage but the size and shape of the envelope help set it apart.

And speaking of postage, if at all possible, use first class stamps. Nothing screams impersonal like a bulk mail indicia printed where a stamp should be. If you absolutely must use bulk mail, do what you can to make it look like first class mail.

2. Just say no to plain address labels

How much do you love the way the envelope is addressed? I think it is so fabulous that it’s now hanging on my office wall! Not a boring mailing label in sight—a simple but impactful way to get your donor’s attention.

3. Create mystery and intrigue

There was no return address on the envelope, which boosted the mystery and my urge to open it.

The contents of the envelope seemed a little bulky. The slightly puffy shape was hard to capture in my photo but whatever was inside did NOT feel like a standard letter-sized piece of paper or even a greeting card. It was thicker and smaller than that.

“Who sent this clever envelope and what could be in it?” I thought, as I tore into it.

Upon opening it, I discovered the mailing had come from a small local nonprofit organization I support called Mirror Image Arts. You can see the contents of the envelope in the second photo. It is a folded postcard invitation for the organization’s annual event, along with a personal note from the board chair written on brown card stock.

Mirror Image Arts.jpg

The fact that the postcard was folded explains the “bulkiness” of the envelope. The personal note on thick card stock added to this effect.

All in all, Mirror Image Arts did a great job packaging their mailing. As soon as I spotted it in my stack of mail, I was intrigued and curious enough to open it immediately.

By the way, puffy envelopes are not the only way to create mystery and intrigue. Teaser copy—the catchy phrases printed on the outside of envelopes—is a common and effective way to increase curiosity and get your donors excited to see what’s inside. Here’s a great article on how to write teasers for direct mail fundraising.

Bonus insider info!

When I shared with Mirror Image Arts’ executive director how delighted I was with their mailing, and how the bulky/puffy nature of its contents had drawn me in, she laughed. Turns out that when the staff and volunteers had come together to stuff postcards into envelopes, there was a size mismatch and the cards were too large to fit into the envelopes.

Having neither the time nor the funds to reprint the postcards in a smaller size, they decided to fold what they had to make them fit. At the same time they thought to add handwritten notes. All of which added up to a puffy envelope! Ha!

Don’t you just love happy accidents?

What is your experience with nonprofit mailings? Have you had any happy accidents around your fundraising work? Please share your thoughts or experience in the Comments box below!

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