Should you include a reply envelope in your thank you letters?

I get this question all the time! And I’m sure there are a lot of people who will disagree with me on this topic.

My standard response to development directors and executive directors who ask this question is a resounding, ABSOLUTELY!

The most frequent argument against including reply envelopes in thank you letters is that donors won’t really feel like it’s truly a thank you if it contains another ask. Fair enough.

However, including a reply envelope is incredibly passive – and I’d argue it’s not an ask at all. From where I sit, it’s an added convenience for donors, and a very soft reminder that the donor’s continued giving is appreciated. And when your thank you letter copy is warm, appreciative, and authentic, the inclusion of a reply envelop shouldn’t be an issue.

Here’s what the data on this topic shows us:

  • Nonprofits that include reply envelopes in their thank you letters have 2nd gift conversion rates that are anywhere from 8%-12% higher than those organizations that don’t include them.These organizations also tend to have better long-term retention rates than those who don’t include reply envelopes in their thank you mail.
  •  Organizations that consistently include reply envelopes in their thank you letters have built large and predictable income streams from this one simple tactic.

Even high capacity donors will respond if you include reply envelopes in your thank you letters

  • A few years ago I advised a new client to begin including reply envelopes in his thank you mail. He did. A new donor who made a first gift of $1,000 in response to the organization’s direct mail acquisition campaign was then sent a thank you letter that included a reply envelope. Eight days later, this donor returned the envelope from that thank you letter with an additional check for $5,000.
  • Another organization I work with has received multiple five-figure gifts in response to their thank you letters over the last three years. This charity received unsolicited gifts of $20,000, and $35,000, directly in response to their thank you letter mail.

Are there exceptions to this approach? Sure there are. For example, I wouldn’t include a reply envelope in a thank you letter for a major gift that was personally solicited. And I’d absolutely recommend that you incorporate other stewardship contacts in addition to a standard thank you letter. Things like handwritten note cards, thank you calls from staff, boards, and volunteers, and invitations to tours, volunteer days, etc.

Do you include reply envelopes in your thank you letters? Why/why not? What has been your expreience?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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