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How to Write an Effective Teaser for Your Direct Mail Fundraising Package

Deal Maker, or Deal Breaker?


Golden retriever dog sitting at front door with letters in mouth
Janie Airey/Digital Vision/Getty Images

When you pulled that direct mail pitch from a charity out of your mail box this morning, what made you open it or dump it? I'll bet the teaser on the envelope made the difference.

Mal Warwick in his book, How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters, has a section called "The Letter Writer's Toolbox." This section is full of quick tips, ranging from effective teasers to a list of strong leads for your letters to ways to start a P.S. in a fundraising letter.

To create an effective teaser for your envelope, Warwick tells fundraisers to think about the "need" or "function" you want the teaser to fulfill before you write it. Here are some functions he suggests and corresponding examples of teasers:

  • Function: Describe the contents
    Example: "Membership Card Enclosed"

  • Function: Establish urgency
    Example: "Your response needed within 10 days."

  • Function: Hint at advantages
    Example: "R.S.V.P."

  • Function: Flag the importance of the contents.
    Example: "Membership Survey"

  • Function: Start a story
    Example: "She was only 11 years old. She was as old as the hills."

  • Function: Offer a benefit
    Example: "Your Free Gift Card Enclosed."

  • Function: Ask a question
    Example: "Would you spend $1 a day to save the life of a child?"

  • Function: Pique Curiosity
    Example: "What do these people have in common?"

  • Function: Challenge the reader
    Example: "Take this simple quiz to learn your Health I.Q."

Warwick says none of these teasers will guarantee that your reader will open your appeal, but there is evidence that teasers do deliver. He then provides 30 real life teasers that are his favorites. We include just a handful here:

  • ENCLOSED: Your first real chance to tell the National Rifle Association to go to hell...
    (Handgun Control, Inc)

  • Because many people who sell alcohol think pennies are more important than human lives...

  • Would you go to jail to keep a puppy from being tortured? WE ARE!
    (Last Chance for Animals)

    (National Audubon Society)

  • P.S. We named the duck Harold.
    (Community Service Society of New York)

  • Why don't woodpeckers get headaches?
    (Boston Public Library Foundation)

  • How Sister Alice became GRANDMA
    (Missionary Sisters Of The Immaculate Conception)

  • Will you be killed by a handgun in the next 23 minutes? (Back flap): Someone will be.
    (Illinois Citizens for Handgun control)

What functions do each of those teaser lines serve? Of course, they only work within the context of the entire direct mail package...the envelope, the typeface, the colors, even the postage. But it is likely that an envelope carrying a teaser will be more affective in getting the recipient to open it than an envelope that does not carry a teaser.

Don't lavish days on writing your letter, and then just dash off the teaser. It deserves your most creative effort.

  1. About.com
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  5. Fundraising Basics
  6. Fundraising - How to Write Teasers for Direct Mail Packages

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