Posted September 1st, 2011

Looking for An “Opening”? Part 3 in a Series About Factors That Can Affect Your Marketing Response

Before you open your mail, you have already made judgments about it. There may be lessons in your own first impressions. Pay attention to them.

Some items are obviously personal or expected and may be opened right away. Some are impersonal (perhaps addressed to “Resident”) and may go immediately to the trash. And there are those you aren’t sure about. Often you open them out of curiosity to check the contents before deciding how to act.

Your own schedule and frame of mind may influence your decisions too.

Thinking about your own behavior points out some of the issues to consider when you design a communication package to send donors. Anyone who assembles such a mailing will want to consider several variables, all of which can affect whether a particular piece of mail is opened.

After all, unless the envelope is opened, even the most compelling materials will go unread.

Is the envelope personally addressed?

We said in last month’s installment of this series that the donor did not necessarily have to be addressed by name in the cover letter. The outer envelope, however, should be handled differently.

Unless the recipient finds his or her name correctly spelled on the outer envelope, he or she may conclude that this mail is not worth keeping. Auto-addressing systems that take the donor’s address from your database and print it directly on the envelope eliminate the risk of a misspelled name or incorrect street number.

What does the return address show?

Depending upon your type of organization, the way it is perceived by donors and the amount of mail you send, you may choose to use an institutional return address or a departmental one. Some use a special program name to show that the piece of mail is part of an overall informational effort.

Whatever your choice, the envelope should appear distinct from other pieces of mail from your institution so the recipient will know he or she is receiving information and not an additional appeal for funds.

How is the letter mailed?

First-class mail may result in a higher response rate than bulk mail because it lends a more serious feel to the package. Do you check the upper right corner before deciding whether to open a particular piece of mail? Consider printing a first-class indicia.

When will the communication arrive?

If first-class mail is chosen, you can predict fairly well in what part of the week it will arrive. Aim for arrival on a Friday or Saturday, both slow mail days for residential mail customers. Your correspondence may have a better chance of being opened and read.

Other variables such as envelope size, color, manner of addressing and postage meter mark versus stamp should also be weighed in your decision. The important point is that your envelope be opened by those whom you wish to serve.

Next month: Monitor response through attention to content.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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