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In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen the first of the EOFY appeal envelopes arrive in my mailbox.

The verdict?

I’m impressed.

Aside from my own clients, I support several non-profits. In previous years, they’ve had – shall we say – rather lacklustre direct mail.

But several have really lifted their game this year. Improvements include:

1. Very well crafted propositions – specific rather than generic offers I’d really be interested in giving to.

2. Very good use of story – these non-profits seem to have actually gotten someone out there to interview beneficiaries. Rather than plonking in a few paragraphs provided by the programs department or a case manager.

3. Well-developed long letters – I’m a fan of doing 4-page letters. But only if they’re filled with content designed to drive the donor towards a donation. Not filled with fluff because someone said long letters work better.

4. Incredible lift notes – well-designed and using handwriting fonts where appropriate. And from beneficiaries or “experts” that touch an emotional chord.

5. Proper use of envelope teasers – too many envelope teasers for appeal letters are poorly conceived. One of the biggest problems is giving too much away in a teaser. So the donor has no reason to open the envelope. But I saw a couple of really good ones that made me want to open the envelope to find out more.

More on outer envelopes

I note one charity that mails me very often appears to be testing outer envelopes. They sent me their EOFY appeal in a plain envelope. No logo. No teaser.

So unless I recognised the return address (which I didn’t), I had no idea who it was from. When I received it, I had in my hand 3-4 other branded charity envelopes and some bank statements. This plain envelope was the first one I opened. To find out who it was from – and just in case it was something important.

Branded vs. plain outer envelopes. This is a very good test to run. It will definitely increase your open rate – you just have to measure whether that translates to more income. Very likely it will but that depends on how good the contents in the envelope are! And how good the relationship is with the donor.

In this case, the letter inside was pretty good (see points 3 and 4 above). On the downside, the font was incredibly small. It looked like less than 10 point.

So watch out

The lesson is: Don’t get complacent about your own fundraising appeals. The competition for your donors’ gifts is getting hotter!

I’ll be watching my mailbox with interest over the next couple of months!

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