What’s in my Mailbox | Nonprofit Envelope Teasers: Yay or Nay?

November 30, 2016


One of my most frequently asked questions during our direct mail fundraising class concerns the envelope teaser. Which makes perfect sense, because it’s not just your average envelope. Done right, it can skillfully set the stage for something great.

Direct marketing superguru Dan Kennedy notes that you only actually have two choices when it comes to envelopes.

Yep. Just two.

One, he points out, is to use this approach, based on “A-pile vs. B-pile mail.” That’s to assume that most people sort their mail over the trash. If you want to make it into the “A-pile,” you need to operate from a place that is decidedly personal and private in nature. An envelope that’s “A-pile” material prizes authenticity. So in this instance, this is what your envelope should look like:

1. It has zero connection to any business or commercial identity.
2. Preferably, it includes just the person’s name and address, in type or hand-written, for an ultra personal touch.
3. It bears a live stamp.

I’m with Dan on this one. In fact, I’ve recommended the plain white envelope, sans teaser, for years. Reason: most teasers are simply not very good. They try, and they sometimes try really, really hard, but they inevitably fall short. Most of the time, anyway. Naturally, there have been a select few instances when a teaser was so irresistible that my interest was instantly captured, and I simply HAD to rip open the envelope.

But chances are, you are not a professional copywriter. You ARE, however, a stellar fundraiser who has been steadily planting, growing, and maintaining donor relationships along the way. So use that to your advantage. When you mobilize your board members and volunteers for your *in-house mailing party* — folding, stuffing, hand-writing envelopes — consider adding a handwritten note on the envelopes, too. A simple touch like that has the potential to open the door to something big, so the same applies to acquisition pieces. You’re not just setting the stage for the envelope’s contents, you’re creating space for something sustainable to flourish. You are, without hesitation, speaking directly to your donors, and potential donors, from the get-go.

Year-end fundraising is upon us, and I’ll bet your mailbox is filling up. Same here. Below, you’ll find a sampling of what’s shown up in my mailbox in the past few weeks. And along with these pieces, you’ll find notes on whether I think they’re “A-pile” or “B-pile” material, rooted in my personal perspective as a donor. Yes, I’m a donor. Especially around the holidays, when I’m feeling particularly jolly and generous. So have a look…


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