A Look Inside the Outside
“I always tell people to feel their paper samples, as silly as it sounds,” Kinch says. “When you’re holding a piece of mail, it has texture; there’s reality to it. A lot of times we’re just thinking about the words on the page or the design … We’re not always thinking about how it’s actually going to feel.”
To tease or not to tease
That’s the question, and one with no hard-and-fast answer.
“If you’ve got something inside that’s worth promoting, promote it,” Kinch says, but do it in a simple way that doesn’t shout at donors. “Pithy … sky-is-falling teasers” characterized by over-the-top language that “screams fundraising at you,” she adds, are on the decline.
“There’s a generation of donors that [these teasers] worked really well for. But those people are in the planned-giving world now or they’ve passed on,” Kinch says, adding that they have been replaced by a donor base that
is less emotional about giving, perhaps because of current social and economic unrest, charity scandals and fundraising abuses they’ve witnessed.
“Some of those things have made them more aware that even if it seems like a good cause doesn’t mean it is,” Kinch says.
Lester and Zaiontz agree that teasers often can give away too much by broadcasting the ask.
“I think it’s better to create curiosity with our carrier teasers,” Zaiontz says.
Kinch adds that one of the most provocative carriers she’s ever seen was sent by an animal-protection organization. The mailing’s outer said, “Elephant enclosed,” humorously referring to elephant postcards packed inside.
In general, teasers tend to work better for organizations that deal with urgent aid and/or high-impact, time-sensitive issues rather than ongoing social services.
Other familiar organizations such as the American Red Cross or American Heart Association have more success with plainer, more institutional outer envelope treatments because their mailings can ride on their reputations, and they don’t have to jump through hoops to get attention.