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Boost Response by Not
Including a Reply Envelope

by Alan Sharpe

Your donors do not respond to your direct mail appeals because you include a postage-paid reply envelope. They respond because they believe in your cause, admire your organization, and want to help the people you serve.

Postage-paid reply envelopes are a convenience. Nothing more. They tend to boost response because they make giving by mail easier. Your donor doesn’t have to hunt for an envelope, search for a pen, find your address on your letterhead and then copy that address onto the envelope, then hunt for a stamp.

But remember this: your donors and members support your organization financially because they want to, not because you make it easy to.

Some non-profit organizations have this back to front. They think they must include a reply envelope with every piece of correspondence that leaves their office. “Including a reply envelope gives the donor a reason to mail back another gift,” they say.

So their newsletters include one. Open their annual report and there it is, stitched into the gutter. Open the nice thank-you card from the executive director and what drops out? A reply envelope. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

This is a blunder. Including a reply envelope with a thank-you letter is about as tasteful as me in a swimsuit.

Asking for a donation in every single thing you mail your donors (and a reply envelope asks for a donation, however subtly) is wrong-headed. You and I are in the friend-raising business. And friends who are always looking to their friends for money soon find themselves looking for other friends.

If you want to treat your donors with respect, mail them a letter every once in a while that doesn’t ask the donor to do anything but accept your sincere and deep-felt gratitude. Tell them how much you appreciate them. How much you are grateful for their faith in your organization. Don’t ask them to respond. Just end your note with “thank you” followed by a period.

Try this today and see what kind of a response you get.

© 2006 Alan Sharpe. Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author: Alan Sharpe is a professional fundraising letter writer, instructor, author and newsletter publisher who helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using cost-effective, compelling, creative fundraising letters. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at
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