Words to Live By
In today’s high-tech fundraising world, why wade into an old-fashioned topic like carrier-envelope design?
The reasons actually are quite simple. First, direct mail is still the medium of choice for most large and small direct-response fundraisers. These days it’s fashionable to discuss the Internet and other alternative media, but the fact is that direct mail generates vastly more gifts than any of them. So improving direct-mail performance can have a huge effect on a whole donations program. And, experts I polled agree that the design of the simple outside carrier envelope can dramatically affect response rates.
So for the moment, I’ll leave new, cutting-edge media for others to ponder. Let’s look at what could be the most important component of a direct-mail package — the lowly carrier envelope.
I asked a number of top direct-mail fundraisers for their insights on design techniques that result in the greatest response. Not the prettiest, not the one to win a design award. Rather the ones that make the package perform the best.
To dress for success, keep it simple
Harry Lynch, CEO of New York City-based nonprofit marketing services provider Sanky Perlowin Associates, agreed with most of his peers: “In modern direct mail, the outside envelope now represents the very best opportunity to blow a campaign — and in a very big way. While DM specialists understandably want to show off their creativity with graphics, photos and clever teasers, these have consistently and sharply suppressed results in a high majority of our tests.”
Veteran creative guru Jerry Huntsinger is more blunt: “The purpose of the carrier envelope is to get opened. Nothing more. Clients who don’t test put too much pressure on the carrier. The only reason I ever use a teaser is because clients who don’t test think it’s necessary.”