What’s in your mailbox? Part 3

We started a conversation on Tuesday about direct mail and dissected a fundraising letter from Michelle Obama. Yesterday, we changed course by looking at a newsletter from my state senator. Today, we’re going to my mailbox and pulling out a few postcards that I recently received from a few different charities in my hometown.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been receiving more and more postcards from charitie,s and I have a theory about that.

As you know, the first rule in direct mail is not creating your letter or even developing the stuff that goes into the envelope. The very first thing you need to think about is designing the outer envelope in a way that entices people to open the letter.

This is where postcards are genius. There is nothing to open. The information that you want your supporters to read is readily visible.

Larkin Center

The first postcard in my stack of mail this morning is from a behavioral health non-profit organization in Elgin, Illinois called Larkin center.

One side of this small postcard has a four-color photograph of renowned pianist and composer Emily Bear. The few words on this side of the postcard simply inform me that she is playing a concert that will benefit Larkin Center.

When I flip the postcard over, there is also very little information; however, it is everything I might need if I want to learn more about this event or register:

  • Date/time of the event
  • Location of the event
  • Where can I purchase tickets (e.g. website, phone, fax, box office hours, etc)
  • Ticket pricing

This is short and sweet and to the point. Whoever designed this postcard understood that most people spend just a few seconds with each piece of mail.

Open Door Clinic

The second postcard in my stack of mail this morning is from an AIDS treatment non-profit organization in Elgin, Illinois called Open Door.

One side of this small postcard simply has my address, their return address, the non-profit permit indicia, a barcode for postal automation, and big words that say “SAVE THE DATE”.

When you flip the piece over, you see a four-color picture that divides the postcard into two parts. One side of the postcard sports a graphics for the Chicago AIDS Run & Walk. There is one simple sentence that says:

“Join Open Door Clinic’s AIDS Walk Team & help us reach our goal by joining our team or donating at http://bit.ly/JYRGr2”

The other side of the post card has a beautiful picture of chocolates and encourages readers to “save the date” for their All Things Chocolate special event fundraiser on April 20, 2013.

You read that right . . . this non-profit organization has the wherewithal to tell its donors to plan for something in the next calendar year. Wow! I guess someone prides themselves on being organized and well-planned. LOL

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign College of Fine & Applied Arts

The final postcard in my stack of mail this morning is from my college alma mater.

As some of you know, I graduated from the University of Illinois in 1992 with a BA in Urban Planning and in 1994 with a Masters in Urbana Planning. For the last 18 years, I have been trying to hide from those fundraising professionals. Regardless of where I move or how many times I’ve changed my phone number, they keep finding me.

It is impressive. And the postcard they sent me is equally impressive.

he message is simple and to the point . . . we want your email address. However, they go about asking for it in a very cleaver way. Here is how they asked:

“We are gathering current email address from our alumni to start a conversation about how your education shaped your professional and life experiences. Your experiences and ideas will assist us in shaping arts education for future students. To share your address with us, please visit: http://go.illinois.edu/FFAAlums”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my  non-profit friends talk about how hard it is get more in-depth information (e.g. email addresses, birthdays, etc) out of donors, but it has been often. I just love the approach that my alma mater is taking.

So, what can we learn from these three postcards:

  1. K.I.S.S. — the information you want your supporters to see must be simple and easily digestible in a few seconds.
  2. Four-color — Reader surveys seem to indicate that people’s eyes are attracted and drawn into pictures and graphics that are vibrant and full color.
  3. Postal automation — Using a mail house to certify your mailing lists allows them to add a barcode to address label. This saves the post office money, and in turn saves you money.
  4. Not just for events — The most common use of postcards seems to be advertising an event or asking donors to save a date for an event. However, the University of Illinois example illustrates that we can be more creative with this direct mail tool if we put our minds to it.

Does your non-profit agency use postcards? If so, what for? Have you measured the effectiveness of this strategy (e.g. increased event attendance, etc)? If so, what did you find? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC