Published on September 9, 2014 by

Test yourself: What’s an envelope teaser’s main purpose?

Choose one only.

A. To let people know what’s inside

B. To create a positive expectation for what’s inside

C. To reinforce your brand

D. To reinforce your campaign message

E. To get the envelope opened

So what did you pick?

Did you go with A, C or D? Then I’m guessing you’re a CEO or a communicator rather than a fundraiser. (By the way, you can be a great communicator and a bad fundraiser. But generally speaking, you can’t be a great fundraiser and a bad communicator.)

If you went with E then that’s the mark of a good fundraiser. If you went with B… I’d accept that answer too!

Why?

Let’s start with E first. Getting the envelope opened.

The most wonderfully crafted direct mail letter in the world is completely useless... unless you can get donors to open the envelope it comes in. This is why the teaser (if you use one) is so important. It can make the difference between the bin and a donation.

One of the biggest problems I see with envelope teasers is giving away too much information when it’s not appropriate.

Remember, it’s called an envelope teaser. Its function is to tease the reader into opening the mail piece. If you tell people exactly what’s inside, then why do they need to open the envelope?

If you splash “Please support our Spring Appeal” with a big logo across your envelope… then what’s in it for the donor?

The donor’s mental process is “Asking for money again… in the bin…”

Instead try teasers like:

How to stop puppies like Max from being tortured (with a cute picture of a puppy)

Do you think women should STILL be getting paid 23% less than men?

Mark was just 8 when he handled a gun for the first time…

These teasers imply or offer some kind of benefit to donors that they are likely to care about. (Or at least care about more than giving to your appeal.)

Perhaps it’s doing something about a cause or issue they're passionate about (saving tortured puppies or women’s rights). Or just satisfying curiosity (why was Mark handling a gun at age 8?).

These teasers also create very clear pictures that arouse strong emotions - emotions that are likely to lead to a gift.

Once you get the envelope opened, then you can present information that follows up on the teaser… and of course, details about your Spring Appeal.

But…

Note there are actually quite a few cases where telling people what’s inside the envelope IS appropriate and can make good teasers. Consider these.

Matching gift offersYour gift matched dollar for dollar… if you give by 30 September

Premiums or freemiumsYour free cards inside - handmade by the children in our disability program

Response to a disaster that has been prominent in the newsCyclone Mary victims need your help today

Newsletters (if your donors are very engaged with your charity) - Your Latest Newsletter Inside

Notice each of these examples again offers a benefit to the donor.

Now let’s consider option B above. To create a positive expectation for what’s inside the envelope*. I’d go a bit further and say…

To create a positive expectation for what’s inside that you can deliver on.

After all, there are all kinds of tricks you can pull to get an envelope opened. Such as making an outlandish promise. Or even just a promise you can’t live up to. Or even lying on the envelope.

Like offering a free gift on the envelope which is of poor quality.

Or saying something is urgent when it’s really not.

Or taking a detail in a story completely out of context.

If the contents of the envelope don’t live up your teaser then your donors will be peeved. Getting the envelope opened is not enough on its own.

So if you can create a teaser that:

  • Gets the envelope opened
  • Sets up a positive expectation of what’s inside
  • Deliver on that expectation

… then that’s one step towards better fundraising.

* I should cite my source here, the great copywriter Bob Bly, who in turn cited another copywriter Bob Matheo.

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