Image of a person with a question mark on a chalkboardLast week, I received this question about a fundraising letter acquisition mailing.

Hi Marc,
We are doing an acquisition mailing to patients of Local Community Clinic on behalf of Local Community Clinic Foundation, a 501c3 that offers support to the Clinic and the Community. The mailing is huge – just over 100,000 – and we are trying to keep this within our budget abilities without losing the personal touch for the end readers. The burning question is in regards to using a window envelope. We can use artwork on the envelope that says “a Special Invitation” or something to that nature so they know it’s not a bill, or we could really break the bank and use a regular envelope, which will require extra matching and printing. In your research and work, are you aware of any trends in acquisition mailings that use a window envelope vs. a non-window envelope? When this is to an audience with a relationship to us, what percent return on average should we expect? Not more than 1%?

Tesla Jabinski

Director, Fundraising and Development
Local Community Clinic

Here’s my answer:

Hi Tesla,

Great questions!

Even though these folks have a relationship, they still see it as a transactional, business relationship. If you’ve ever been a patient and had to pay bills, you’ll know what I mean.

So I’d still use the 1% benchmark. Actually, I’ve been told (and experienced myself) that acquisition mailings lose money. You do them because of the life-time value of the donor. Once a person gives, they’re far more likely to give again. So be sure to remember that when analyzing the results.

As for the envelope, your #1 goal is having them open it. That’s all. So I’d say go for a window with no teaser. They’re already used to receiving that from your organization. Plus it does help down the cost!


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