Tag Archive for: annual appeals

To most of the world, “Ugly Betty” was the name of an ABC original TV series starring America Ferrera. However, in the world of fundraising professionals, an ugly betty is an effective way to renew gifts from prior donors using a very direct, invoice-style approach.  

So, is an ugly betty ugly?

No! An ugly betty is simply an invoice-style appeal. Although it may not include many photos, there are plenty of creative elements that can be used to grab donor attention and increase participation. 

What’s so effective about an ugly betty? When donors look through their mail, something that looks like an invoice or bill will drive them to open it immediately or set it aside for future review. Consumers are inclined to pull out the “more important” pieces of mail to make sure that they don’t miss any official documents. 

You might ask, “Why wouldn’t every appeal be an invoice style, then?” If every appeal were an invoice style, it would reduce its effectiveness. Many organizations send ugly betty mailers towards the end of their fiscal year to capture prior donors that haven’t given yet. 

St. Joseph's College Ugly Betty Letter

3 components to consider:

1. Creative

The effectiveness of these invoice-style appeals can be heightened with eye-catching, modern, and action-driving creative elements.  

The invoice-style appeal often emphasizes prior giving, lack of giving this fiscal year, and a strong call to action to donate. That simple message combined with a superior design is a winning combination.  

Check out some examples sculpted by our creative team.  

2. Envelope type

How do you know when you get a bill in the mail? There is usually a special type of envelope or design that evokes urgency. Whether it’s a window envelope or verbiage like, “Important: Action Required, you can entice your donors to open your mailer by creating an air of importance and driving quick action. 

3. Data segmentation

Organizations often have an immense amount of data, but don’t always use it. When data and direct mail align, the possibilities are endless. Data is a critical component of an effective ugly betty campaign as it helps to showcase individual donor histories and strategically determine what donation amount to ask for.For example, it enables the capability to isolate that Donor A gave $25 in 2022 and 2023 but hasn’t given in 2024—making it possible to pinpoint an appropriate ask of $30 and two reach donation amounts as opposed to asking for $500.  

Want to discover some of our creative ugly betty appeal designs?  

View examples here. 

At BCG Connect we partner with nonprofit professionals to weave multichannel creative marketing solutions into their fundraising, stewardship, brand marketing, event campaigns, and more. BCG Connect helps non-profit organizations find, attract, and keep donors. We also assist with multichannel creative needs. 

Ahh, the infamous question: self-mailers vs. letters for your next appeal?

Self Mailers vs Letters – Which is best for you?

Direct mail formats should be more strategic than just following personal preferences.

Meanwhile, it’s visible, it’s direct, and it gets noticed. The direct mail format is a key component of your direct mail campaign. It’s your physical link to your donors. One thing that has to be taken into consideration is the choice of format. Though you may have some idea of what type of layout to use, the best decision will depend on:

  • objectives
  • donor segments
  • your budget

Introduction: What is the difference between a self-mailer and a letter?

Let’s first look at the classic. Often considered formal communication, the letter develops a personal connection between the nonprofit and the donor. Then, there’s the self-mailer. Sometimes seen as an informal way of communicating, the self-mailer takes more creative liberties than the classic letter.

This all seems obvious, of course.

But what difference does it mean to the nonprofit looking for donations?

The Benefits of Using Self-Mailers

Self mailers are a great way for nonprofits to share imagery through stories and graphics. They are a low-cost and effective option.

But you know that already.

What are the benefits of self-mailers for nonprofits?

Sending a self-mailer to your donors has many benefits. You can highlight your annual report, tell donors about the most recent achievements of your nonprofit, share upcoming events and more. With variable printing and segmenting your data, you can even illustrate through imagery, as well as the text of each self-mailer.

A successful self-mailer is one that calls out the recipient by name within the headings. Adding other personal information, such as grad year, is another way of personalizing your self-mailer.

However, self-mailers are associated with retail companies.

So, could that be why some institutions and organizations swear by letters?

Engaging Vehicles for Letters

Envelopes are not just a container for letters. They are a vehicle for delivering an emotional connection to the letter, which is what makes them so engaging.

Envelope design can be an important part of a letter’s success. Designers have to consider how the recipient will handle the envelope and if they will open it.

Since an envelope is the first thing that people see when they receive a letter in their mailboxes, it’s often the only thing that people see before they open up the letter and read what is inside of it.

3 Reasons Nonprofits Use Letters over Self-Mailers

Letters allow you to show a sense of value and importance. Letter and envelope combinations have the room to tell your compelling story to your target audience about your nonprofit. Let’s take a closer look at why letters work:

  1. Tell your story with an interesting type of font that creates call-outs throughout your letter.

  2. Add a detachable reply card at the bottom of your letter. Simplify the steps a potential donor needs to take. Creating a process for donations will increase the chances of your target audience to donate.

  3. Add imagery. Take the same visual approach that a self-mailer uses by adding images and iconography to your letter.

Now what?

The Hybrid version with Letters and Self-Mailers

Many of our clients are using “self-mailers” in envelopes. I suppose it’s no longer a self-mailer, but you understand what I mean. This way, they get the benefits of both the letter and the “self-mailer” by using an envelope. So why is this becoming more popular?

In addition, it’s the best of both worlds. You now can include all the imagery you want, tell the story you want to tell, and add your business reply envelope.

Here’s an example of a folded card with a reply card, a reply envelope, and an outer envelope. While it’s not really a “self-mailer,” it uses all the elements a self-mailer would employ.

Self-mailers with letters and envelope

Conclusion: How to Choose which one is right for you

In short, if you’re questioning self-mailers vs. letters, and you have the budget, perform a test. Be sure to send to equal numbers of your letters vs. self-mailers. You don’t have to split your mail down the middle. Always use one targeted segment for the test. The remaining segments can use whichever version you prefer.

But, if you don’t have the budget to test, consider the hybrid model. At BCG Connect, we create multiple versions of direct mail pieces. From letters to self-mailers to the hybrid, we design, print, and mail them all. Reach out to use today!

Using email and direct mail together only improves your fundraising efforts, and they are a perfect mix for any organization. Since email is the best way to reach out to people who are already digitally connected, direct mail is the best way to reach out to people who are more comfortable with traditional tactics.

Foremost, direct mail is an excellent way of reaching your donor base. You may not have been able to reach through email alone. Second, email provides a more personal experience and direct mail provides a more in-depth experience.

What is Direct Mail and Why is it Important for Fundraisers?

Direct mail is one type of marketing that has been around for over 100 years. Fundraisers have been no stranger to using this one tactic during the last century. And we know you encourage donors to support your cause when they receive a direct mail piece.

As it’s still an important part of many organizations’ communications strategies, direct mail appeals may even be more important now than ever before. As your donors are aging, it’s the younger generations who value their time spent with direct mail.

The many benefits of direct mail are that it’s cost-effective, easy to segment, and offers the chance to connect with your constituents.

How Email Marketing Benefits from Direct Mail

With a high success rate, direct mail has proven to be an effective communications tool. The approach is perfect for reaching out to your donors in the comfort of their home and getting their attention outside of an online platform.

While it’s been around for a long time, direct mail has seen some changes with email marketing. The popularity of direct mail declined over the years as more and more people switched from traditional mail to email. However, as we all hunkered down during the pandemic, direct mail has found its way back into homes our now more than ever before.

Email Marketing is a powerful tool for any institution. It can help you reach a wider audience, drive traffic to your website, and generate more donations. But email marketing doesn’t work on its own. It needs the support of other marketing tools to be most effective.

Direct mail provides an opportunity to connect with your audience in person – something that email can’t do. And it also provides an opportunity to build a relationship with your constituent that will lead them back to your site and keep them coming back for more.

There’s no doubt that both these methods have their pros and cons, but what if you could use them together for better results?

How to Combine Direct Mail & Email Marketing for a Better Response

Direct mail and email marketing are two of the most popular ways to reach out to your donors. But how do you know which one is right for your campaign?

Email marketing and direct mail are both great ways to reach out to potential donors, but they work best when used together. There are a few different ways that you can use email in your direct mailing campaigns. Here are five ways you can use email and direct mail with your appeals.

1. Target email non-responders

No matter how exciting and innovative your email marketing campaign is, some people will just not open your email. This could be because of several reasons. Maybe they are so inundated with emails, or your appeal gets lost in the shuffle. If you are struggling to get your donors to open your emails, a complementary direct mail piece is the option.

2. Sense of urgency

Sending annual appeals with direct mail takes planning, creative and content. Annual appeals sent with direct mail brand your campaign, connect your donors to your institution, and shares your annual goal. Adding an email can create a sense of urgency so your donors act sooner rather than later. The closer you get to the end of your campaign, use an email to update your constituents on the status of reaching your goal.

3. Use direct mail as part of your email drip campaign

Drip campaigns play a role now more than ever in fundraising campaigns. With all the data you have on your donors, infusing a personalized postcard or letter to your donors will help give your appeal a boost to your next drip campaign. Add a QR code to your direct mail and drive them to a landing page that mirrors the same creative as the drip campaign. Incorporating digital and direct mail helps you reach more donors in more places.

4. Email as a follow up to direct mail

Research shows that when you combine direct mail with email communications, the response rate is 25% higher. This approach also means that more donors will visit your donation page. So, the combination of direct mail and email is a good idea because more donors will see your donation page.

5. Event communications

As traditional as they are, there’s nothing quite like an invitation sent in the mail. The formality of an invitation is even more effective when followed up with an email to connect the donor to an event page. Using direct mail and email marketing together is a more effective way of reaching your constituents and drive attendance or donations to your event.

Conclusion: A Combined Approach to Direct Mail & Email Marketing that Works!

Direct mail and email marketing are two of the most popular marketing channels. Using them to complement one another gives each channel a lift. Whether you’re targeting your non-responders or implementing a drip campaign, direct mail and email work best together when you integrate your segmentation data into each. This combination will help you create a better donor experience by providing them with over one option for engagement.

Do you need help to pull together your email and direct mail campaign? The team at BCG Connect can help manage your next campaign and drive more donors through integrative approaches with direct mail and email. Contact us today.

Let’s talk about your Spring Appeal. Direct mail is a valuable tool for any organization trying to communicate their case for support. The challenge is, how do you use this tool to engage your constituents and inspire them to take action?

Here are 3 tips to help your spring appeal make an impact:

Use current photos to show impact

Using powerful images is a widely understood concept for appeals.1 Showing the impact of how gifts have helped current students, allowed for extra safety measures, or provided support to those in need during the pandemic will resonate with current and prospective donors.

See how the California College of the Arts used this approach: CCA Appeal

Make sure it is clear what you would like donors to do

Like a successful email campaign, an effective appeal involves a clear CTA and message. If donors are unsure what your goal is, it will be less interesting for them to take action. 

See how this appeal illustrates a clear CTA: Friends Central School Appeal

Don’t rely too heavily on copy 

Crafting effective messaging is important and there can often be a lot that you want to say to your audience. However, that message could get lost in translation if there is too much copy drowning it out.2 Finding the balance between images, copy, and a format that appeases both is the goal.

See how we helped York College accomplish this balance: York College Appeal 

What are you trying in your current programs? Connect with us today and let us know.


1 = SG Engage

2 = Huffington Post