It’s time to bring the lowly reply card out from the shadows and give it the attention it deserves. Often, this is the last piece the prospective donor interacts with before putting a check in the envelope or going online to give. While it contains a lot of perfunctory information, how we present that information – both in words and graphics – can make a difference in response online or offline.

In a printed reply form, think about who is ultimately going to use the form. Will he or she find it simple to use? Here are some things to make your printed reply form more appealing to the end user.

  • If it matters, use big enough type to be easily read. Baby boomers and older adults are more likely to use (or at least need) reading glasses than not, so tiny print that demands “readers” may be enough to drive a donor away. What your donor needs or wants to know must be easy to find and read on the form.
  • Provide spaces that are big enough to fill out. Trying to squish a 16-digit credit card number into a one-inch line may not only drive donors away, but it may lead to mistakes in writing or entering data. Also, make sure to leave space for hyphenated names.
  • Summarize briefly why a gift matters. Some donors will toss the letter and only save the reply materials. When they pick it up next, it should remind them what impact their gift will have, when possible include a photo, and always say “thank you.”
  • A URL that is easy to remember. Some donors will use the reply card to direct them online to give. Make sure your URL is easy to read and easy to enter. For example, using a capital letter for each “word” that is part of the URL can make it more memorable and easier to enter (for example,

For those who give online, there’s a high bar; even though it is unrealistic, many consumers expect nonprofit e-commerce sites to be as easy to interact with as ones from the giants in the field. While your budget may be limited, try to include the following on your online giving platform:

  • Ask for as little information as possible. This online experience is all about the donor making a gift and feeling good about it. Don’t ask for information that is nice to know (e.g., birthdate); instead only ask what you have to know to process the donation. You can always collect other information that will help you construct a full profile of your donors at a later time.
  • Include a link on the home page click to support the project you wrote about. Some donors will only enter the homepage URL; they will not bother with the information that follows the .com or .org. You can get a better idea of the effectiveness of a particular marketing effort when you include an easy-to-find place to click on the homepage.
  • Add graphics that reflect the letter/eAppeal. If the link goes to a specific landing page, make sure it shares common visual elements with the letter or eAppeal. If you are driving people to a generic donation page, add a photo to it that was used in the appeal. This is immediate confirmation that the person landed in the right place and it can evoke a positive reminder about why they wanted to give.

When the reply form has to do the heavy lifting, will it be up to the task? “Easy to give” can positively impact whether or not a person gives again.