Hey, about your envelope…

star company envelope.

This blog post from Five Maples shares the results of a head-to-head test of the envelope on a direct mail appeal for a nonprofit.

Their donors were split into two equal groups. One group received a letter in an envelope that included the organization’s tagline. The other group received the exact same letter, but the envelope did not have the tagline on it.

The tagline on the envelope was the only difference.

The test showed that including the tagline on the envelope reduced the number of people who responded by 65%. Put another way, putting their tagline on the envelope reduced the number of people who sent in a gift by over half.

Let’s notice that this test isn’t about all taglines. It’s about that organization’s tagline, on that piece of direct mail.

But still, that is a massive impact.

You can take three lessons from this simple test that will make you a more effective fundraiser.

Lesson #1

If your organization is putting its tagline on your outer envelope, do you know if it’s helping or hurting?

If you don’t know, it’s time to ask questions instead of making assumptions.

(By the way, there is ZERO judgement here if you’ve been making assumptions. We all do it at the beginning of our fundraising journey.)

Lesson #2

A bigger lesson this data teaches is that what you put on your envelope matters. A lot.

There are very smart people who argue that what you put on the envelope matters more than what you put in the envelope. How’s that for a brain-breaker? Because if your recipient doesn’t open your envelope, what good does the incredible message inside do?

I don’t spend much time on that argument because I think it’s a chicken-or-egg situation – but it is fun to talk about with other Fundraising nerds over a drink.

Moving forward, you want your organization to be thoughtful about what’s on your envelopes and in your email subject lines (which are more-or-less equivalent). And if you want to know more about this right now, the blog post mentioned above is a great place to start.

Lesson #3

Data about fundraising will help you know what’s important and where to spend your time.

For instance, I spend a ton of time on outer envelopes, and on the description of what a donor’s gift will accomplish. I spend almost no time trying to make sure an appeal matches a nonprofit’s “voice.” I make those decisions because data shows how much envelopes and descriptions matter, and how using an organization’s voice in the mail usually causes them to raise less money, not more.

For what it’s worth, in my career I’ve tried to develop what I think of as an “evidence-based worldview” for how to be successful in fundraising. That worldview is made up of as many test results (like this one!) and facts that I can get my hands on.

If you can build a worldview like that, you’ll have a good idea of what path/tactic/approach will have the best chance of success, regardless of the situation.

And if you’re just beginning to build your worldview, this little test about a tagline on an envelope is a great place to start!