The Envelope Teaser: Should You Use One in Your Next Fundraising Appeal?
The debate has been raging for decades. Add a teaser to the outer envelope of your direct mail appeal. Or don’t. Which is better?
Some maintain that if you want to increase the open rates for direct mail fundraising, use a blank outside envelope. No teaser. No organization logo. Nothing to signal that it’s a fundraising letter or even whom it’s from. Just a plain white envelope.
The theory, of course, is that the mystery of the blank outside envelope will entice donors to rip it open to see what’s inside.
There’s something to be said for that. After all, who can resist the blank outer envelope? Not many of us. You just have to know what’s inside, don’t you?
But what happens when your donor or prospect opens the envelope and realizes it’s something they don’t want, need, care about or see the relevance of? They toss the appeal, of course. In that case, what has that plain envelope really accomplished? It’s the fundraising equivalent of “made you look!”
Another way to approach the whole outside-envelope thing is to take a piece of advice from direct-mail legend George Duncan. He maintains that direct mail is theater in print. And the outside envelope is where we set the stage.
One of the most important parts of the outer envelope, Duncan said, is the corner card — the return address in the upper lefthand corner. It’s one of the main things that recipients view. They wonder, “Is this from somebody I know or want to know?” If you’ve effectively targeted your donor or prospect, the answer will be “yes.”
That’s one part of the battle. The other part centers around three kinds of teasers.
1. The Offer Teaser
Here you present donors with a specific proposition. An example would be something like, “Your gift multiplies four times in impact to save starving children in Africa.” This kind of approach tends to work best when you have a simple, powerful offer, like a multiplier or a match.
2. The Benefit Teaser
This approach is all about a promise or benefit for the reader. An example would be something like, “Celebrate the most joyous Thanksgiving ever by transforming the life of someone who’s homeless.” Just like the offer teaser, the benefit needs to be something that resonates with your donors. It needs to speak to a key reason for giving.
3. The Curiosity Teaser
Here we get a little oblique with the messaging. It could be something like, “Why Amina will thank you with tears in her eyes.” You want to tell just enough so that your donor has a feeling about what the letter might be about but isn’t really sure — hence, the curiosity.
Other teasers that fall into this category are intentionally vague envelope markings like “Time sensitive,” “First class,” or “Rush delivery.” These give little or no indication of what’s inside. But that’s what gives the curiosity teaser its power. Of the three types of teasers, though, this one is the riskiest. If the teaser conveys too little, it doesn’t connect. If it conveys too much, curiosity evaporates.
Envelope Teaser Verdict
Setting the stage with the outer envelope doesn’t always mean using a teaser. But in many cases, it will. The variations in envelope types and teasers are endless. A fancy, invitation-looking envelope with a simple “RSVP” on the front might set the stage very well. So could a simple No. 10 envelope with a benefit teaser that connects. It all depends.
What we’re aiming for is to stop our donors in their tracks when they see the envelope — and have it be so compelling that they can’t wait to open it up. Then, once they do open it, to have their expectations confirmed that this is, in fact, something relevant, something they want to know about. Setting the stage like that, you generate interest with the outer envelope and then sustain that interest with the content inside. That makes it easy for donors to get engaged with the mailing — which of course makes it easy for donors to give.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
An agency-trained, award-winning, freelance fundraising copywriter and consultant with years of on-the-ground experience, George specializes in crafting direct mail appeals, online appeals and other communications that move donors to give. He serves major nonprofits with projects ranging from specialized appeals for mid-level and high-dollar donors, to integrated, multichannel campaigns, to appeals for acquisition, reactivation and cultivation.