Our 9 top tips to help you design direct mail that works for older eyes

Direct mail is still the backbone of most charity’s fundraising programs. And it refuses to go away – because it works!

But if you’re serious about communicating in the best way with your donors, then it’s critical that you create direct mail material your donor can read.

Think about Generation X, the Baby Boomers and the Matures – they may be in great shape but many of them don’t see as well anymore. Bifocals anyone?

This checklist for printed material will help you design for older eyes. Proper formatting goes a long way towards building a great donor relationship.

1. Use larger type (12-14pt). For older eyes, larger type is a good customer experience.  Small type isn’t – so don’t use it.

2. Use appropriate typefaces. Traditional typographic wisdom holds that serif typefaces are easier to read in long blocks of text. For older eyes, the finishing stroke helps to distinguish one letter from the next.

Choose a font that works effectively in the medium you are using for your donor communications. Some fonts render well onscreen while others are better for printed material.

3. Have reasonable line lengths (no more than about 65 characters wide). Really wide line lengths tire the eye.

4. Flush left, ragged right (instead of justified) allows the eye to find the next line easily.  This makes for natural reading.

5. Use normal letter spacing or ‘tracking’.  Don’t space your letters too close together as that becomes difficult to read. Make line spacing larger than usual. Single space may be too hard to read so try 1.5 or double spacing.

6. Make sure your type is clean and easy to read. Copy needs space to breathe on the page – if it looks too hard to read it generally will be.

7. Good colour choices, well-contrasting elements. Black type on a white background will always be beautiful – and pick a bright white. Minimise or preferably don’t reverse type out at all.

8. Break it up. Write short paragraphs and use subheadings, in bold to break up the long copy. Make generous use of bullets, numbered lists, sidebars and pull-out quotes to help break up your pages.

9. Make it easy to read: don’t use glossy paper, as the light reflects off the gloss, making it difficult for the reader to see the print. Use a matte finish.

Central to being donor-led and investing in relationship fundraising is your ability to make your donor communications big, bold, beautiful and unmistakably clear. These are the principles of good design and communication.

And those qualities make your message appealing to donors of all ages – not just your older audience.

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