The basics of “lift notes” in direct mail | 60S Today

The basics of “lift notes” in direct mail | 60S Today

If you’re putting together a direct-mail campaign, you might hear the term “lift note” in the course of planning and strategy. In case you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of this mail tactic, here’s a quick primer.


A lift note is a short letter that precedes the main letter. Usually the note comes from someone other than the main letter’s author and is the first thing the reader sees when they open the outside envelope. The primary objective of a lift note is to “hook” the recipient and encourage them to read the rest of the package’s contents. However, the note’s ultimate goal is to deepen the reader’s connection to the organization and give a donation.

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There are several different approaches to lift notes. These are the most common:

  • An endorsement from someone who holds currency within the target audience. These lift notes prove to the reader that the organization is both legitimate and effective—and therefore a cause worth their investment. These notes work to establish trust between the reader and the organization before the main letter’s actual “pitch.” The endorsement tactic works particularly well for acquisition mailings when the reader might be unfamiliar with the organization.

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As an example, a faith-based organization might include a note from a leader in the religious space that organization operates in. The recipient might recognize the name of the lift-note signer, who will note the organization’s importance and then ask the reader to continue on and read the president’s letter.

  • A personal note from someone who has benefited from the organization’s work. This approach builds an emotional connection with the reader, which is vital to a successful direct-mail campaign. Personal notes blend seamlessly into house-file mailings because they show the donor how they are helping real people in concrete ways—and they provide an excellent way to thank the donor for their support. Personal lift notes tell heartfelt, poignant stories and stoke the feeling of gratification—the “warm fuzzies”—that comes from having done a good deed. (Do not underestimate the power of emotional rewards—they are a potent tool in fundraising!)

An example here might be an addiction recovery center sharing a note from someone who benefited from the center’s services telling donors how the center helped them—“thanks to your support,” it should read—in order to engage the donor and get them interested in reading the actual letter.


A good copywriter can capture the lift note signer’s voice and compose a couple short paragraphs that the signer can either approve for print or use as an example for their own writing. It’s worth noting that ghostwritten copy is the norm within the direct-mail world because it allows for a relatively quick turnaround, which will help you keep to your production schedule.

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If the note is more personal, writing out the copy by hand can prove particularly effective: it lends an element of authenticity and is more likely to build an emotional connection with the reader than typed text.

Finally, smaller sized monarch (executive) paper can make the note stand out from the rest of the package. Typically the lift note won’t use the organization’s letterhead, but it should still match the design and branding of the whole package.

In short, a solid lift note can make an excellent addition to your direct mail package because it builds a relationship with your readers—and relationships are at the heart of effective fundraising.

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