4 Ways to Improve Your Direct Mail Letter

Brian Barela

letters on parchmentMany ministry staff send a monthly direct mail letter updating those who support your ministry through financial support or prayer. Here are four ways to improve the letter so your readers will know more about you and your ministry,

1. Make is Scannable

How long would you estimate your readers spend reading your letter? Now think about how long you spent reading the last letter you received in the email. I would have said two to five minutes for the first, and 30 seconds for the second. More than likely the majority of your readers scan rather than read your entire letter.

Consider a 70/30 ratio of images to text on your letter. This may be extreme but this ratio encourages two significant actions: selecting quality images and writing succinctly. Your readers are much more likely to remember a striking photograph over a long paragraph. Many people who support ministry staff I know enjoy posting letters on their refrigerator; using large images will dramatically increase the chances of your letter being posted there, extending the lifespan of the letter.

2. Make Your Readers the Subject

The number one reason people decide to discontinue their financial support is a lack of connection with the person or organization. Consider orientating the letter around how their investment of finances and prayer have made a difference in your ministry, as opposed to a “what’s new with me” theme. It’s much easier to engage their hearts when you connect what you are doing to their involvement in your ministry.

3. Make it Easy to Read

Consider the average age of your readers–often times it’s over 50 years old. If you are using fonts that may look cool but are hard to read, or your the size of your fonts are 12pt or under, you may want to make some changes. Consider increasing your font size to 16pt for your next letter (it may encourage you to write less, which is an added bonus).

4. Make it Consistent

“You haven’t posted in weeks. Or months. Like so many would-be bloggers, you started well, but you quit too early. I’m sure you have legitimate reasons, but I am tired of waiting. Nobody cares. Post or perish.” Michael Hyatt shared this quote on “Why I Stopped Reading Your Blog.” Although it’s about blogging instead of direct mail the principle applies. People are much more likely to read your letter if it arrives around the same time each month. If you do not send out a monthly update consider sending it out bi-monthly or quarterly. Infrequent or sporadic communications can send the message that you do not care about keeping your readers updated.

Do you have any tips that have improved the effectiveness of your direct mail communications? 

By Brian Barela | Posted: Jan 31, 2012
Category: Fundraising | Permalink | Post a comment | Trackback URL.


  1. February 1, 2012, 12:30 am | Permalink

    I think it’s implicit in your post but we’ve had really good feedback along the lines of how we keep it to one page. People love that it’s short and they know they can read it quickly. Avoid the tempatation to go double-sided.

    Second, work really hard at telling a story. What was the weather like. What were you wearing. What was the mood. How did you feel. Trying to include these details helps you feel like you were right there. My wife is great at crafting stories in this way. I’m learning to resist the urge to merely communicate facts.

    • February 1, 2012, 12:10 pm | Permalink

      those are great additions russ.

      your comments about telling a story reminded me of how important ‘timeliness’ is–with so much real time information details that you were describing, as well as using words like ‘right now’ ‘yesterday’ ‘last week’ significantly make the letter more interesting.

      it’s very easy to create letters that have a timelessness to them, which in this case is counterproductive.

  2. February 14, 2012, 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Hello! Thanks staffhacker for all your help! I was wondering if you had any ideas for or examples of how to make a 1 page newsletter for a staff couple. Because there’s two of us and two different ministries, I have a hard time trying to squish everything on one page. Thanks!

    • February 15, 2012, 10:01 am | Permalink

      I would focus on one ministry each month rather than 2 at the same time.

      Or dedicate 2/3 to one and 1/3 to the other each letter, and alternate the focus each month.

      You can also use email during the month to round off/complement what you are sharing in your direct mail piece.


  3. D. Kouame
    April 24, 2013, 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Hi there, This is really helpful. I am not sure how I stumbled upon your page but thank you for this. I recently started working at the NSC at IV Canada. I am working on my first letter. I am seriously aiming for a one pager and curious to see if I can make the font 14pt or 16pt.


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