July 15, 2021

3 Direct Mail Tips to Get Your Donors at “Hello”


You have only 20 seconds to catch a reader’s attention before your nonprofit fundraising direct mail piece goes in the trash. Here are a few tips to make a big impression right out of the mailbox.  

The line “You had me at ‘Hello.’” is an unforgettable one from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. And it’s also a phrase that nonprofit fundraisers dream about.  

In an ideal world donors would be thinking “I was yours at the moment…I got your direct mail.” Or even better, “You had my heart at the moment…I got your direct mail.” 

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but at the very least we as fundraisers want to captivate donors enough to get them to open our direct mail and engage in the message of our mission. 


Let’s dive into 3 Direct Mail Tips to Get Your Donors at Hello.  

1.Eye-Catching Envelopes

The first direct mail tip to “get your donors at hello” is eye-catching envelopes. 

The more positively disruptive you can make the outside of your direct mail piece the more likely it will be opened and read.  

Years ago, making your direct mail look like a bill guaranteed it got opened. The creative marketer in me is glad times have changed. Now the more eye-catching the envelope – the higher the open rate.  

 Adding things like photographs, graphics, and teaser messages to your direct mail will help your nonprofit organization stand out. 

Color also helps catch the eyes. If printing in color is cost prohibitive, consider using solid color envelopes to make waves in the sea of white.  

Or if you really want to get fancy, clear envelopes also have high attention getting power. 

2.Unique Size & Shape

The second direct mail tip to “get your donors at hello” is unique size and shape. 

Super sizing is not only good for french-fry lovers, but also for direct mail fundraisers. The size and shape of your direct mail piece can get you noticed.  

Anything bigger than a standard #10 envelope that is 4 1/8 x 7 1/2 inches is going to give you a leg up over the typical bill sized piece.  

Squares over rectangles, oversized postcards, interactive folds, and jumbo die cut shapes are some of my favorite ways to uniquely catch a reader’s attention. 

3. Strong Teaser Messages

The third direct mail tip to “get your donors at hello” is strong teaser messages. 

Direct mail messages work best when they engage readers, grabbing them emotionally – maybe even catching them a bit off guard.  


Here are some ideas for crafting strong teaser messages and examples:  

Engage the Reader

When you use the word “you” in your teaser message, you directly engage the reader. 

One of Tree House Humane Society’s strong teaser messages is: 

“5,000+ cats want you to become a Tree House Advo-Cat Member!”  

Say What’s Inside

Entice the reader to open your direct mail appeal by letting them know what they will find enclosed.  

One of Open Door Mission’s strong teaser messages is: 
“Your Thanksgiving and Christmas Labels are enclosed” 

Give a Sense of Urgency

Teaser messages that communicate a sense of urgency are used to encourage the reader to act right now…as in “today” or “by midnight”. 

One of Denver Rescue Mission’s strong teaser messages is:  

“Urgent > Time Sensitive > Reply by Midnight 11/27/19” 

Build Brand Awareness

Use the outside of your direct mail piece as a mini billboard for your brand. Give the reader insight into how your organization is changing the world and why they should care.  

 One of Sierra Club’s strong teaser messages is:
“See you later, pollinator… (name), the world’s butterfly population is crashing. 
Find out why…” 

Put Your Back into It

Teaser messages are not limited to the front of your appeal envelope.  

 One of Heifer International’s strong teaser messages is:  

“The smile is new. The cow? Now that’s a story.” 


Remember you have only 20 seconds to get your direct mail opened before it’s placed in the big round 
file that is your trash can. 

Eye-catching envelopes, unique sizes and shapes, and strong teaser messages are all ways you  

can quickly make a big impression straight out of the mailbox.  

Use these tips to “get your donors at hello” and then you can say hello to more donations. 


If you need a hand with your next direct mail campaign, contact us. For more marketing tips for nonprofits, go to KidGlov/nonprofits. 

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