Why fundraisers love boring envelopes

When you create direct mail fundraising, the most important element is the carrier envelope. If it doesn’t get opened, it really doesn’t matter how brilliant everything inside might be. It’s game over.

You should put a lot of creative energy into your envelopes.

But that might not mean what you think it means…

Because sometimes the most successful envelopes don’t look all that “creative.” The best envelopes are often quite boring and give very little information.

Example from the mailbox:

Boringoe

I can picture someone critiquing this envelope as gibberish. Fair enough. It really doesn’t communicate anything — it’s not even clear whether it’s meant to be the POSTMASTER who’s saying this or someone is saying it to the POSTMASTER. What is an “FST Processing No.”? Why is this here?

The answer to logical questions like that are not important.

This envelope is about curiosity.

I don’t know if it has been successful, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it has been.

Curiosity is one of the best ways to improve direct mail response rates.

A strange envelope like this that tells people nothing about its contents almost always does better than one that gives it all away, like a newspaper headline:

You have an amazing opportunity to rescue abandoned puppies!

That would be logical, but usually would not work very well. Because there is no mystery. The only people likely to open that are those who as they look at their mail are already thinking something like “I wonder what I could do right now to rescue abandoned puppies?”

That’s not a lot of people, even when you’re writing to people who really care for puppies.

This is why envelopes with no content on them at all do better than those with teasers most of the time.

Envelopes that don’t signal their contents should be a go-to approach.

Don’t feel bad about being “uncreative” or “illogical.” Those things aren’t the job for direct mail envelopes. Getting people to open them so they get the chance to interact with all that material inside you worked so hard to create.

There are some significant exceptions to this principle. We’ll look at some of them tomorrow.


Comments

2 responses to “Why fundraisers love boring envelopes”

  1. David P Himes Avatar
    David P Himes

    Completely agree. Envelopes with a lot of teaser copy just highlight the fundraising content — which likely means more readers trashing the envelope quickly, rather than opening it.

  2. David P Himes Avatar
    David P Himes

    Completely agree. Envelopes with a lot of teaser copy just highlight the fundraising content — which likely means more readers trashing the envelope quickly, rather than opening it.

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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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About the blogger

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.