Just Slightly Contrarian: Oh, Woe to the Wimpy Reply Device
It’s a frustrating nuisance — that pesky reply device. The sorry, little stepchild of the fundraising package. Underutilized. Misunderstood. Occasionally ignored. Treated with faint disdain.
Tradition has it that the reply form was invented around 1924 and evolved via two genetic streams. For commercial mail, it became a dynamic ingredient of the mail package.
But for nonprofits, it became a wimpy slip, designed primarily to fly the package through a window in the envelope.
However, writers who make a living creating nonprofit packages love the reply form. It’s their “edge” when competing against amateurs who see it only as a necessary evil.
After I’ve nailed down the offer and appeal, I create the reply device — before I even write the letter. It becomes a stand-alone mini-appeal and a benchmark for the rest of the package. I do this because my entire creative focus while I’m writing the package must be to “sell” the reply form — the offer, the premium, the financial challenge … whatever.
Why this approach?
Many donors are quite clever in the way they read their fundraising mail. They’ve read more appeals than most of us have written.
When a donor first looks at a piece of mail, he starts scanning. And he often reads the reply device to find out what the appeal is all about. Then he goes through the package and reads the letter and, if your appeal captures his imagination, he becomes motivated enough to send a gift.
But wait. After making that decision, the donor might put the reply device and envelope in a little pile of other bills to be paid. Then he finds it when he goes back to the pile — perhaps many days later.
By then there might not be such an emotional connection — no letter, no graphics. Just a tiny, naked and often ugly slip of a paper. What comes next? The trash can. On to other bills to be paid.