I admit it — I'm a direct-mail addict. I have no intention of joining a 12-step program to find a "cure," since I experience no guilt when my heartbeat quickens as the familiar white, red and blue truck pulls up to my mailbox. My happiest days are when the mail carrier can barely stuff all the mail in my mailbox.
In recent weeks, I have received stationery, note cards, address labels (of course), oversized envelopes … and a plain, white envelope.
This envelope came from a local hospital with whom my husband had a two-night stand earlier in the year. It was metered with nonprofit postage, and the return address was the hospital name and "Office of Philanthropy." Since we had never donated to it, what could shout "donor acquisition" more loudly?
But, just in case it was a refund for overpaying for aspirin or whatever, I bypassed the recycling bin and gave it to my husband. He opened it, read it — and told me I had to read it, too. For, even to his non-fundraiser's eyes, it was clear the letter copy was a winner. It began:
"Imagine that you are strolling through (name of town) on a pleasant evening. Suddenly a car comes out of nowhere. The rest is a blur.
"Your spouse calls 911, an ambulance is there in a flash. Sirens blaring, you are rushed to (name of hospital), which has been serving you and your family for generations.
"But this time, you are turned away."
This package couldn't have been more simple (although it did include a four-color reply form that did a great job of restating the offer). But good copy worked. It asked me to imagine something that was all too easy to relate to. How many of us haven't heard the squeal of brakes and realized that an accident had just been avoided? And, it put me in a locale (the local downtown area) I knew well.