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Fundraising Letter Reply Devices:
Are You Making These Mistakes?

by Alan Sharpe

Fundraising letter reply devices - also known as reply coupons, donation coupons, reply slips, response forms and gift forms - are the instruments that conclude your request for funds. If your reply device doesn't work, your appeal letter doesn't work - and you don't get the gift.

Here are some tips for getting your reply devices right.

General Guidelines

  • Assume the reply device is the only piece in the package your donor will read. This forces you to make a strong case for giving.

  • Ask donors to do as little as possible in returning a gift to you in the mail?make the process as quick and easy as possible.

  • Involve the donor in some way (placing a check mark in a box, answering a survey question or two) that moves them closer to making the gift.

  • Restate why you are asking for funds now?keep selling the idea of making a contribution.

  • Reiterate the benefits the donor receives by making a donation (membership in your organization, for example, or a free book that you will mail upon receiving the gift).

  • Contain an "acceptance statement" written in the voice of the donor (Example: Yes! I'll help in the fight to end clear cutting in Puget Sound. Here is my gift. Send me your free newsletter."

  • Leave lots of room for donors to write.

  • If the reply device is designed to solicit large gifts, don't call it a reply device. Give it a name that communicates importance and value, such as "Memorandum of Acceptance."

  • Include your organization name and address, just in case the reply device and reply envelope get separated.

  • If you are requesting gifts by check, tell the donor who to make the check payable to.

Mistakes to Avoid

  • Introducing new ideas or taking a new direction

  • Making the donor do too much

  • Leaving insufficient room for donors (particularly elderly donors) to complete the form

  • Using the same reply device for every appeal. Because they are printed several at a time on a sheet of paper, reply devices are inexpensive to produce. So design one for each appeal so that each reply device supports the case for support and appeal for funds in each appeal package

  • Forgetting to include the donor's unique identification number

  • Printing the letter and reply device on the same sheet of paper. Testing over the years has demonstrated that a separate letter, reply device and reply envelope generate better responses and more gifts than reply devices that must be torn off the bottom of a letter.

  • Designing your reply device so that donors are confused and unsure of what to do to make a donation.

  • Including information on the reply device that donors want to keep but that must be returned with a donation. Print any information that donors will likely want to retain on a perforated portion of the reply device that donors tear off and keep.

© 2006 Alan Sharpe. Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author: Alan Sharpe publishes Fundraising Pointers, the free, weekly email newsletter about raising funds, building relationships and retaining loyal donors. Alan is the author of Breakthrough Fundraising Letters, Mail Superiority, and 25 handbooks on direct mail fundraising. Alan is also a speaker and workshop leader who delivers public seminars and teleseminars on direct mail fundraising. Sign up for Alan's newsletter at

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