One word NEVER to put on a direct mail envelope

UPDATE.

In all the years I’ve been doing direct mail fundraising, I’ve never seen an envelope with the word “update” on it do well.

(And this applies to email subject lines too.)

If you think about it, there’s hardly a more boring, bureaucratic, jargony word in the English language than update. You might as well say “You can safely ignore this.” Or “TL;DR.” Those would probably work better than update, actually.

Let me know if you’ve seen Update do well in a direct-response situation.

Otherwise, stay away from it!


Comments

10 responses to “One word NEVER to put on a direct mail envelope”

  1. Shayna Knack Avatar
    Shayna Knack

    What words or wording would be acceptable? I send out an email update every couple of weeks. Not specifically to donors, but to several people.

  2. Shayna Knack Avatar
    Shayna Knack

    What words or wording would be acceptable? I send out an email update every couple of weeks. Not specifically to donors, but to several people.

  3. the name of my newsletter is UPDATE. It started when my ministry was in its infancy. I wanted donors and projected donors who were identified as ‘friend’s of the ministry. The name UPDATE just ‘stuck’.
    We started the UPDATES in 2007. I have been full-time since 2008 and I get a constant stream of readers who respond favorably to my reports, devotionals, prayer requests, etc.
    Jerry Sinclair
    Faithful and True of Jacksonville, Inc.

  4. the name of my newsletter is UPDATE. It started when my ministry was in its infancy. I wanted donors and projected donors who were identified as ‘friend’s of the ministry. The name UPDATE just ‘stuck’.
    We started the UPDATES in 2007. I have been full-time since 2008 and I get a constant stream of readers who respond favorably to my reports, devotionals, prayer requests, etc.
    Jerry Sinclair
    Faithful and True of Jacksonville, Inc.

  5. Hi Jeff,
    We sent out an email blast earlier this month that had “Update” in the subject line, and it did well (by our standards, anyway). However, the full message dealt with an urgent need, so that’s probably why it got a good response.
    The full subject line was “Update: Roof damage in Malawi.” It was sent a few days after we’d originally reported the news via social media, and it was sent to our entire email list. It got an open rate of 26.6% and a click-through rate of 0.9%. And we ended up getting $4,239 directly from that e-blast (14 individual gifts).
    All of those numbers were good compared to our typical e-blasts sent to our entire list, but I don’t know how they compare to other orgs.
    Brian Olson,
    Children of the Nations, Silverdale WA

  6. Hi Jeff,
    We sent out an email blast earlier this month that had “Update” in the subject line, and it did well (by our standards, anyway). However, the full message dealt with an urgent need, so that’s probably why it got a good response.
    The full subject line was “Update: Roof damage in Malawi.” It was sent a few days after we’d originally reported the news via social media, and it was sent to our entire email list. It got an open rate of 26.6% and a click-through rate of 0.9%. And we ended up getting $4,239 directly from that e-blast (14 individual gifts).
    All of those numbers were good compared to our typical e-blasts sent to our entire list, but I don’t know how they compare to other orgs.
    Brian Olson,
    Children of the Nations, Silverdale WA

  7. Shayna: If I were you, I’d create a unique and attention-grabbing subject line every time. Give them a new and powerful reason to open your message every single time.
    Jerry: I think UPDATE as the name of a newsletter is just fine. It doesn’t have the “don’t read me” quality that a teaser or subject line with that word in it.
    Brian: My guess is “Roof damage in Malawi” or “Emergency: Roof damage in Malawi” would have done better in that situation.

  8. Shayna: If I were you, I’d create a unique and attention-grabbing subject line every time. Give them a new and powerful reason to open your message every single time.
    Jerry: I think UPDATE as the name of a newsletter is just fine. It doesn’t have the “don’t read me” quality that a teaser or subject line with that word in it.
    Brian: My guess is “Roof damage in Malawi” or “Emergency: Roof damage in Malawi” would have done better in that situation.

  9. Thanks for the response, Jeff. That’s good to know for future reference.

  10. Thanks for the response, Jeff. That’s good to know for future reference.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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