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Seven Ways to Spice Up Creative

May 2006 By Corrine Servily
Many small nonprofits produce their mailings as inexpensively as possible. But reliance on stock elements that can be cost-efficiently produced and mailed can make their appeals look like everyone else’s.

Fundraising direct mail should always present the nonprofit organization in a distinctive and compelling way that conveys the organization’s mission and reinforces its unique brand. These are some guidelines that can help nonprofit organizations achieve this goal:

1) Larger inserts. Getting the organization’s story out there is critical to establishing the organization’s brand and creating a vivid image of the organization in the donor prospect’s mind. Two-, four- and six-page inserts are effective vehicles for getting the organization’s story across in a direct-mail package.

2) Compelling photography. Direct-mail recipients don’t spend a lot of time reading appeals. So filling a four-page insert with a bunch of text is counter-productive. Compelling photography, accompanying the informative copy, can get and hold the reader’s attention. Also, donors want to see where the nonprofit uses their money, and photography quickly allows them to do this. Finally, photography helps develop a scan-line that leads the reader through the copy to the call to action.

3) Bold color. Color is a powerful tool when designing direct mail and an effective way to grab attention. If four-color printing is beyond your organization’s budget, combine multiple spot colors or use an array of alternate tones to give the illusion of multi-color printing. Sometimes using color sparingly with a simple design is effective. The starkness allows the reader to focus on the message.

4) Shorter letters. A shorter, well-written letter makes the multi-page insert stand out and furthers the effort to emphasize “telling” what the organization does over “selling” an offer of some kind.

5) Design simplicity. While oversized pieces and multiple elements can attract attention, they can also create confusion if they are overly complicated. Unifying items within a package using color and fonts helps the viewer navigate through the multiple pieces. The reply device also should be easy to understand.

6) Engaging headlines. Numerous studies on direct mail have shown that many readers never read beyond the headlines of an appeal. Therefore, most of the creative energy -- the copy and design -- should be invested in the headlines of the direct-mail package. Each headline should relate easily to the next to help form the scan-line that leads readers to the call to action.
 

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