“#9, white, printed in black, front only.” That’s often about as much creative thought as we put into the reply envelope in a fundraising package. But since this piece will be handled by almost every donor who makes a donation through the mail, it makes sense to maximize its contribution to the appeal.

While some nonprofit organizations test putting a first-class stamp on all the reply envelopes – and often find the increased response exceeds the cost of all the stamps that never get used for a donation – there are other, less costly ways to increase the reply envelope’s contribution to the mail package.

  • Include the letter signer’s name in the mailing address. If a donor is responding to a passionate request from Maria Brown, it feels more personal to respond to Ms. Brown, not to “Processing Center” or another generic term (or nothing at all). We want our donors to feel connected to the organization, and this “human touch” is a small way to increase that.
  • Put a message on the envelope (below the return address area) that is a positive reinforcement. An example is, “I’m helping my neighbors!” Don’t reference a donation or say “check enclosed,” because some people believe that is increasing the risk that the mail will be stolen.
  • Try using an envelope that is a different color from the rest of the contents. This makes it stand out and can also increase “tension” – which is not a bad thing in fundraising.
  • Use an ink color other than black. Adding “Thank you!” in red ink, for example, can be a positive reinforcement to the donor who is considering a gift.

Some organizations use the back of a reply envelope to convey required state registration disclosures; if you do not need to include that legal copy, consider putting helpful messages on the back to answer commonly asked questions, For example, one organization included a statement explaining why the mail was being sent to an address in a state other than where they were located. This reduced donor concerns at little additional cost. You can also include a great quote or a word of appreciation – again, avoiding anything that points out the fact that money is enclosed.

Here’s to return envelopes that work hard in our fundraising program!