People Give to People: Creating Successful Spring Appeals

Compared to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, spring is a low-key time for most nonprofits. (About a third of all annual donations are made in December.)

But that doesn’t mean you should forget about giving. In fact, spring appeals to donors can be a big opportunity. There’s less competition for donors’ gifts and attention—which means you may be more likely to stand out. Plus, a lower-stakes appeal makes for a great time to try out new techniques to see what resonates with your audience.

How can you shake up your mailers this spring? Try these tips:

Use a new envelope style. Self-mailers are all the rage—but they actually tend to lead to worse response rates than letters sent in an envelope. Why? People give to people, and a letter conveys a more personal touch. But envelopes don’t have to be boring. Try sending an oversize envelope or one in a bright color to catch readers’ eyes.

Try a personalized trick. You probably already know the benefits of using personalization and variable data to reach your direct mail customers. But there are other things you can do to increase engagement that only seem personal. For example, a letter with a stamp that is slightly crooked—rather than perfectly straight—is more likely to get opened. The same goes for fonts that resemble handwriting. These subtle differences make readers feel like they’re getting mail prepared personally for them—even when you’ve automated the whole thing.

Embrace readability. Getting your letter opened is just part of the battle. After that, what’s inside the envelope needs to close the sale. Above all, your message needs to be easy to understand. Otherwise, readers won’t waste their time. Simple design elements, like using a large font size, indenting paragraphs, and using subheads to highlight key points will increase your chances of being understood—and in turn, increase giving.

Refresh your list. Chances are your mailing list could use a little spring cleaning. Take some time to make sure your list is as effective as possible. Run a test to look for duplicate names, outdated addresses, or donors who no longer seem interested in your communications. Then, if you haven’t already done so, segment your list into appropriate categories. For example, you could have a list for current donors and a list for newsletter subscribers who have not yet donated. It makes sense that you’d want to speak to these groups differently. Spending time refining your lists allows you to do just that.

Spring is a time of new possibilities. This season, take a risk and try something new with your direct mail. You might be surprised by what you find.

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