The Lift Letter – Taking Us to Higher Places

Posted by on Jul 2, 2012 | 0 comments

What is a lift letter? I have to be honest here, I know what a lift letter is. I’ve used lift letters and I use lift letters. But, for the life of me, it’s more often than not that I fail to bring up the actual term “lift letter”.

The term “lift letter” is not an overly familiar term in the many realms of publication, it’s typically associated with direct mail. It’s a letter specifically designed to “lift” the response rate of your direct mail campaign.

A lift letter is a personal letter to accompany your fundraising letter. It can be from almost anyone associated with your organization – a donor, volunteer, attendee, or supporter (probably not an employee).

In simple fashion, a lift letter most often sits on top of the main fundraising letter or direct mail piece. It looks different than the main letter, it sounds different than the main letter, and it feels different than the main letter. It’s also signed by a different person than the main letter (it was authored by someone other than the person whose signature sits just above the P.S. on your direct mail piece.) I’ve often called it a cover letter, when I couldn’t bring the term  “lift letter” to mind, but that isn’t really correct.

Today we’re talking about the lift letter. Not a cover letter.

Lift letters aren’t a new idea. They’ve been around since the early 60s. The term “lift” relates to the anticipated lift over former response levels that is typically received when a lift letter is used. In other words, using a lift letter can increase your response rate.  Note that I didn’t say “will always increase”, because that is not the case. But in most cases, when used appropriately, it will increase your response rate.

Why? A better understanding of the lift letter will provide the answers.

Lift letters, when used appropriately, are a cost-effective and proven method to capture the reader’s attention, and therefore, response. Lift letters are used in combination with your fundraising letter and direct mail piece. The purpose is to build credibility for your organization, and to provide an extra point of connection between donor and you via the mutual relationship you both have with the lift letter’s author. This doesn’t mean the reader needs to be best friends with the author, but the lift letter author is often someone recognizable and respected – the governor of your State, the CEO of a partner organization, a well-known philanthropist, a respected community leader, etc. Or in a less formal style, the lift letter author can be someone your reader will identify with – someone who has benefited from your organization’s efforts, etc.

Choosing the correct author is as important as choosing the correct message when you’re working on a lift letter. Select someone who connects to your organization AND to your target audience. Keep it simple and have the author concentrate on one topic or message. Ask them if they want to draft the letter and have you edit, or vice versa. Either works.

An effective lift letter will do the following:

  • Add credibility (let’s face it, having someone in a position of respect author a “lift letter” for your direct mail campaign provides substance and recognition)
  • Provide incentives (possibly your letter already includes numerous requests; the lift letter can add one additional push by including an incentive for the call to action in a timely manner: a special reception at the upcoming convention, a branded item, a special quarterly email from your CEO, etc.)
  • Support your viewpoint (repetition is the mother of learning aka the best teacher)
  • Introduce you or your product (perhaps the author of the lift letter is a prominent person or celebrity who wants to introduce you to his network of friends, family and/or business associates, there’s no better introduction to a potential donor)
  • Increase notoriety (maybe the recipient knows the author of the lift letter, but doesn’t know you very well – now they do!)
  • Capture the reader’s attention (don’t hesitate to do something a bit out of the ordinary, use a colorful sticker, a crazy first line, give something away free if the reader responds, or in the case of a celebrity their name alone will capture attention)
  • Tease the reader (an effective teaser in the lift letter should give the reader an increased desire to read the complete mailing)
  • Provide a third-party endorsement (a simple introductory letter from an influential, well-known person who endorses your organization with his or her own support is invaluable, this type of mailing should be sent to an audience agreed to by you and the lift letter author).

When using a lift letter you should follow this criteria:

  • One page
  • Short, simple, one topic
  • Different size (smaller) and color of paper, maybe even different weight or style
  • Large signature block
  • Heading at top of lift letter (if you choose to have one) could be something like: A SPECIAL NOTE ON BEHALF OF XXX FROM GOVERNOR BLACK
  • You can also reference the lift letter in your P.S.  (Don’t forget to read Jane Smith’s letter about her experience at the XXX 2012 Training Conference. Jane is a great example of our training program’s success.)
  • The lift letter can go on top or inside of your fundraising piece
    • Placement A:  on top of your direct mail piece if the lift letter is an endorsement by a well-known person or introductory in nature
    • Placement B:  within the pages of your direct mail piece if the lift letter is a testimonial concerning something you’ve written in your letter (“My experience at XXX’s recent training conference is unparalleled. I increased my knowledge twenty-fold and am now providing training for my colleagues….”  Jane W. Smith, 2012 XXX Training Conference Attendee)

The term “lift letter” may be foreign to you, but the practice of using these unique letters from supporters should not be.

If you haven’t used a “lift letter” recently, try it. If you follow these steps, I believe you will see a “lift” in your responses as a result. And that’s enough to lift anyone’s spirits!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *