5 ways to increase the power of direct mail envelopes

In direct mail, the real estate that has the most impact on success is the outer envelope.

Hands down.

What you put there matters more than anything else you do. You could have the best fundraising offer in the history of the world. Your letter could have superpowers of persuasion.

But if people don’t open the envelope, none of that matters.

Here are some things to think about for your envelopes from Nonprofit Pro, at 5 Design Tips to Get Your Envelope Noticed:

  1. Size. Standard #10 envelopes fill your donors’ mailboxes every day. That’s why it’s a smart move to use other sizes: Bigger, smaller … anything else. Unusual sizes often cost more (and in these times of supply chain troubles, sometimes they are not available at all), but it’s good to vary envelope size.
  2. Color. Whether you print a color on the envelope our use colored stock, colors other than plain white can do very well. Also: textured stock often does well. These cost more, but in many cases are worth the added cost.
  3. Teaser. This is the hard part. An effective teaser (message you place on the envelope) can dramatically improve response. But many teasers actually drive it down. No teaser at all is a good option too.
  4. Personalization. The donor’s name and address are visible by default. Try adding more personalization, like the donor’s name in large type or additional data like their city name, years as a donor, or other ways to get their attention.
  5. Postage. In my experience, different postage rates and methods don’t have a lot of impact on response. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it. Whether you use stamps, meter, or indicia, think about the overall look of the envelope. You can make the postage part of the overall look.

If a mailing does unexpectedly well (or poorly), the first thing to examine is the envelope. That is the most likely reason for what happened. And envelopes are the main things you should be testing if you want to learn the most.


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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.

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