Direct Mail Basics

 In Smith & Dale Blog

Direct Mail cannot be subtle!  We must approach our writing as if our mission depends on it.  No passive language allowed!  Don’t beat around the bush, don’t expect donors to read between the lines.  Don’t make our donors guess what you want.  We believe that you need to be specific, ask for a specific amount or call to action. “Please support us” is NOT a specific ask.  “Please consider a $50.00 contribution today” IS a specific ask.  Don’t ever believe that your donors will read your entire appeal.  They just don’t as a general rule of thumb.

These are some best practices to get your donors/prospective donors to read more of your message — and if they only read one sentence.

  • Make sure your letter is easy to read, literally. This means larger type.  Easy to read fonts, no reverse type.
  • DO create lots of visual variables that draw the eye. We recommend underscoring, highlighting words or thoughts, boldface type, pictures, etc.
  • Opening Sentence – Start with an action sentence. “Today we said goodbye to a client.  He left the shelter to live in his new apartment”.  Donors like to hear stories.   Our first instinct is to warm up in the first few sentences.  Don’t do it…cut to the chase!
  • The Johnson Box –Johnson Boxis a box commonly found at the top of direct mail letters, containing the key message of the letter. The purpose of it is to draw the reader’s attention to this key message first, and hopefully grab their attention, enticing them to read the rest of the letter.
  • The P.S. – This is sometimes the first thing (and/or only) the donor will read. You absolutely MUST include a P.S. and make it compelling!
  • Frequency – Have Contact with Donors every two months. There is no evidence that more contact turns your donors off.  It IS true though, that if you don’t touch your donors frequently, you lose them.  This translates to less money AND to spending more money on getting new donors or old donors back.
  • Remit Envelope – Include a vehicle by which your donor can send a check. Don’t make it hard to give money. This is so important, be sure you do it!!

Use a good and reputable mail house that can print, merge, etc.  This is so worth the money because they will do it right!

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