Direct Mail Design

Written by Michelle Le, Senior Account Director

After the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in February, we wrote a post describing the essentials to designing a direct mail envelope (to read the post, click here). The envelope may be the first thing your donors see, but don't waste all your time on the exterior design. In fashion, flashy, expensive outfits might make a first impression, but it's still what's on the inside that matters.

3Here are some tips to make the inside of your direct mail pieces as persuasive as possible.

Letter: Organizations build and strengthen relationships with donors through appeal letters. Letters cultivate, solicit, and engage donors – inviting them to give or upgrade their gift. To get donors to read the letter we recommend:

  • No photos – it’s understandable to want to include lots of photos, especially if you have good ones. But photos are distracting and can suppress response because it takes away from the messaging.
  • A readable font – Times New Roman, Courier New, Serif font! We know, these fonts seem outdated, but are easier to read in print format.
  • The letter looks like a letter – simplicity is key when designing a letter. We see many groups include call out boxes, notes in the margins, and colored paper – none of which looks like a personal letter that would come from a friend or family members.

Reply Form: The reply device is the final step in getting a donor to give and is one of the most critical components of a direct mail package. Even if all other elements are perfect, a bad reply form can suppress giving. To get donors to send in a gift we recommend:

  • Removing all obstacles to sending in a gift – any and everything the donor needs to know about sending in a gift should be included on the form (address, phone number, due date – if any, giving options like check or credit card).
  • Not to ask for too much information – while donors have a relationship with the organization, it’s important to know boundaries. Asking donors for too much personal information may be off-putting, so be selective in what you ask.
  • Making the ask stand out – the purpose of the appeal is to generate revenue, so make it easy for donors to know what they should give – don’t make them search for it. The ask/call to action should stand out and be the main focus of the reply form.
  • Reminding donors why they are giving – many donors put their reply forms aside, throwing away the letter and outer envelope. When they do pick up the form again, it should include a reminder of why they wanted to give in the first place. Including a short story, stat, or quote on the reply form will remind donors why they wanted to give.

Similar to the fashion world – one needs their wardrobe staples – tried and true ideas that have proven to work. No one wants to end up on any type of worst dressed list; and no organization should leave fundraising dollars on the table because of a design decision.

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