A Look Inside the Outside
ure, e-philanthropy is hot, but most nonprofit organizations still rely on direct mail as their fundraising workhorses. And the outer envelope is the wrapper for your all-important ask. It’s the first thing recipients see, feel and interact with.
As such, it requires a well-reasoned strategy that depends a lot on an organization’s mission, target audience and competition in the mail. Something that works for an advocacy group might not be right for a health organization. One thing that worked 10 years ago might still fly, while another favorite tactic could flop. It’s a testing game for each organization.
Following is a round-up of strategies and techniques to show you what’s working in the industry, and what might work best for your organization.
One size doesn’t fit all
The envelope still dominates nonprofit direct mail, according to Paul Bobnak, director of the Who’s Mailing What! Archive. But the size carrier an organization uses often can be a toss up.
“I’m seeing a lot of regular, plain No. 10 white envelopes,” says Vicki Lester, president of Richmond, Va.-based direct-marketing firm Huntsinger & Jeffer.
Many high-dollar campaigns employ No. 10 packages that are positioned to look like personal stationery from a nonprofit president’s desk, says Lester Zaiontz, vice president of creative strategy and development for Concord, N.H.-based printers Concord Litho.
However, Keary Kinch, principal and senior vice president with Arlington, Va.-based direct-response agency Adams Hussey & Associates, says nonprofit mailers who can’t get out of the habit of using white, No. 10 envelopes are missing the variety of offerings now available. Lately, many clients she represents have found success using No. 11 and No. 12 sizes. As more people start to use these larger formats, prices are going down.
“I think when you take your stack of mail from the mailbox, a No. 11 [or] No. 12 puts your corner card up above everybody’s No. 10, and so it sticks out a little bit,” Kinch says, adding that one format she’s never seen work in a cold mailing, acquisition environment is a 6-inch-by-9-inch mailer, most likely because it’s too easily lost in the fray.
Options exist in terms of color and texture as well. Many printers offer “faux-textured” envelopes that look and feel more substantial, like linen, but are reasonably priced. Kinch says the texture of the paper speaks to donors, but its importance often is overlooked by mailers.