Fundraising Reply Device

How Give Is Fixing Terrible Reply Devices

2015 was a fascinating year for me. I had opportunities to test a handful of fundraising theories that I thought to be sacred.

I should’ve known better. A former colleague of mine used to say, “Sacred cows make the best hamburgers.” To truly break through in fundraising (or anything else for that matter), we’ve got to ask two important questions:

  1. Why do we do it this way?
  2. Can we do it better?

About two and a half years ago, I had a client (the second largest in my roster) tell the agency that they were going to suppress all 13+month donors from direct mail, opting to treat them differently.

What happened? It revealed something about the nature of sacred cows, be it broad strategies, design, copy, or data protocols: you have to challenge the status quo, even if it hurts, to get at what’s best for donors. The client’s strategy (yes, credit where credit is due) helped skyrocket retention rates and net revenue. Mail less, raise more. Go figure. We didn’t.

So when Give’s Creative Director, Debby, started talking about “cleaning up” design and making things easier for donors, I went along. That’s a no-brainer.

We started at the bottom, with the reply device. The RD. The remit. The response coupon. Whatever you call it, it’s a significant bit o’ direct response magic.

There were a few simple changes:

  • Gift arrays were made larger
  • Payment details were put on the front
  • Monthly giving sign-up was placed on the back

I came across a great post by the fine folks over at Agents of Good. It was on RDs and I was like, “Get out of my head, man!” A lot of stuff I agree with. Some stuff I don’t. I want more data! And here’s the kicker: we all need data on this stuff: the conventions that we shatter. So Give is going to tackle a sacred cow…

The Almighty Fundraising Reply Device

What’s our baseline?

Here it is:

An example of a generic fundraising direct mail reply device
Hey, so? See that clunky contact box?

What would we like to test and how are we going to do it?

We think the place to start right now is making it easier for folks to complete the RD. More space. Clearer instructions. More closely tied to the impact they hope to achieve (in responding to the appeal).

We’re playing around with this…

An example of a small fundraising direct mail reply device
Getting a little better. Definitely more room to fill in details.

In this case, we’re moving the contact information to the top of the letter and changing our folds at the letter shop.

Then there’s the larger RD!

An example of a large fundraising direct mail reply device
5×7 larger reply device. What do you think?

I’ll spare you the details of setting up a fair test, but we’ll look at these options across segments, seasons, and markets.

Do I think a new RD is going to help Give’s clients raise thousands of dollars more? I honestly don’t know the financial impact yet. But I do know that making giving easier for donors is always a great thing. And we owe it to our clients to ask these questions.

What’s Next?

  • We hope to test RD formats throughout 2016. We’ll share the results next January
  • We’re already thinking about the gift array (believe me, this keeps me up at night). This is where we know we can help our clients raise thousands more
  • We need to be thinking critically about these same details for online donation pages. We all have opinions. Show me the data!

Sincere thanks and praise to John at Agents of Good for getting me (and us) talking about RDs. That takes talent.

Give is a direct response fundraising agency helping Canadian charities raise more money. Wanna work together? You gotta get referred. We’re picky that way—and you’ll like us more for it.

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Give is a direct response fundraising agency. We help Canadian charities inspire their supporters to greater levels of commitment. Give was created for your charity and its supporters.

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