Weird lessons from a fundraising return envelope

Take a look at a return envelope that recently came in the mail from Easter Seals. It’s a donor cultivation piece (likely for a lapsed donor) that features a full-size wall calendar for next year.

But there are several interesting things about this lowly return envelope worth looking at:

REfront

It’s a window return envelope.

That’s probably because the piece is raising funds for a local affiliate of Easter Seals, but it’s probably produced on a national level, which makes such an elaborate pack affordable. The return address for the donation is on the reply coupon, and there are likely many different local affiliates mailing it.

The first time I was involved in a mailing like this, I really worried that requiring the donor to place the reply device so its address would show through the window would hurt response. So we tested; it didn’t hurt.

Some fundraisers use a window return envelope even if they don’t have multiple return addresses. They do it to “force” donors to include the reply device, thus reducing “white mail.” Also not harmful to response.

It’s not postpaid.

Some people would say that breaks a rule — that you should use a Business Reply Envelope to improve response. Guess what: It makes little difference whether you include a BRE or require the donor to find and affix their own stamp.

It has a “branded” security pattern.

Fun, huh? Since this mailing no doubt uses a very high quantity of return envelopes, it probably added little cost to manufacture them, making it easy to print on the inside and outside. Many years ago I did a test of a normal return envelopes against one with a security pattern. The security pattern did slightly better.

REback

State registrations.

You’re required to include those annoying state registration statements for all the states you mail into. But you can put them anywhere. The back of the return envelope is a great place to put it.

The return envelope may seem like a boring throwaway part of a direct mail pack. But it’s worth spending a little time on. There are things you can do with it that make a real difference.


Comments

4 responses to “Weird lessons from a fundraising return envelope”

  1. I read a post you wrote that talked about including first class stamps on the return envelope. In the story you talked about a board member saying it a waste of money, so the organization stopped doing it and as a result experienced a decrease in donations. Here you say that including a BRE does not impact response rates. Would you be so kind to clarify the differences in response rates when return envelopes include a first class stamp vs. BRE vs. nothing? Thank you so much!

  2. I read a post you wrote that talked about including first class stamps on the return envelope. In the story you talked about a board member saying it a waste of money, so the organization stopped doing it and as a result experienced a decrease in donations. Here you say that including a BRE does not impact response rates. Would you be so kind to clarify the differences in response rates when return envelopes include a first class stamp vs. BRE vs. nothing? Thank you so much!

  3. Sorry the person who questioned the stamp was a Dream Donor – Oct 12, 2022 post.

  4. Sorry the person who questioned the stamp was a Dream Donor – Oct 12, 2022 post.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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