Sunday, December 02, 2012

Recommended Content, Layout, and Uses of the Nonprofit Donation Remitance Envelope, And Why

Of the nonprofit donation remittance envelope, (the envelope of any varying legal size included as a donation request on its own, or included in a more formal donation request (such as folded into an annual appeal letter, for example), its design (layout and content) is the most important aspect of this fundraising tool.

We've all seen tons of them.  Remittance envelopes fall out of the newsletter that comes quarterly by postal mail from our favorite nonprofit; or it falls to the floor as we unfold the solicitation letter we received at the end of November asking for a year end contribution to a charity working for a cause we care about.

Let's step back for a moment.  First, what is effective, successful, and professional fundraising?

When we solicit donations from established donors and potential new donors we are not simply asking for money, holding the tin can out with a little sign taped to it that simply says 'give to this charity'.  We know, today, that according to professional nonprofit best practices, the point of soliciting a donation is not to simply raise a buck here there and wherever we can.  Rather, the point in fundraising is to make a compelling case to people, companies, governments, etc. that may (or already do) donate to your organization such that they are not just guilted into giving or are just giving because they get some tax deduction for it.  We engage potential and established donors, we inform them, and make a compelling case to them why our organization is worthy of their support.  We do it knowing (ourselves, as the nonprofit making the request) that first, we can not fulfill our mission statement's goals without community support such as donations from the public and other entities.  As such, our nonprofits' donors are requisite partners in our effort and in fact, are partners in our organizations' successes and accomplishments.  It is not simply hyperbole or sentiment to thank donors.  Frankly, when a nonprofit says "we could not have achieved organizational success without you, donors" they are not being trite but rather honest and even clear minded.  If a nonprofit does not raise funds, year round, each week of each month, they can not afford their annual operating budgetThe organization that does not raise funds but more importantly, that does not raise partners in order to provide its mission's programs today and in the future is struggling.  I am sure of it.  The nonprofit that understands that its lifeblood is its ability to deliver its mission to the community understands that without its community's current but also ongoing or future support, it is dead in the water or treading and sinking fast.

Nonprofits make a compelling case to a pool of current and potential new donors (who are as determined by professional research to be more likely than just a random group of people to give to this particular cause and organization) explaining why they should give to this particular nonprofit (such as, if it's the case, perhaps it's the only organization doing the work it does; its programs' success rates; its excellent and ethical reputation; 80% (or more) of every dollar raised goes to programs and organizational operations; and its team or staff and volunteers and their credentials, experience, and reputations in their fields).  Too, once accomplishments are achieved, all donors are in relatively short time (perhaps on the organizaiton's website and in the next quarterly newsletter) made aware of the achievements their contributions enabled in the community (perhaps even providing the demographics and service statistics for those served) and the donors are thanked.  They are told in this correspondence that your organization's board, volunteers, and staff know that without their contributions your organization would not have achieved what it has.  Finally, the donors are made aware of what current and new mission based goals (programs) the nonprofit is working on and how they can support current and future work.

So, why even include a remittance envelope at all?

Most of all fundraising is still conducted, today, through direct solicitation such as postal mail requests.  Printing in bulk is not expensive and as long as a nonprofit has a P.O. Box or street address it expects to keep for a while, printing up thousands of donation remittance envelopes (as included in the overhead or expense portion of the fundraising budget) is a small cost compared to its donations (or income) return rate.  Track it and see, if you don't want to take my word on it.  What's more, remittance envelopes (especially postage-paid ones, and using the U.S. Postal Service Nonprofit Bulk Rate when possible) are very convenient and economical modes for donors to submit contributions, right when they are asked for a donation (such as in an appeal letter).  When Susan P. Jones or Abraham Z. Smith receives your nonprofit's request for support, he or she can just write a check and pop it into your organization's included remittance envelope and then drop that into the mail on the way into work the next morning.

You may think, 'Arlene, you were saying that the design of the remittance envelope is all important, earlier?'

Yes, it is.  Here's why.  A remittance envelope (like any contact whatsoever with any potential supporter of any kind of your nonprofit) is an opportunity.  The donor, as they go to fill out the remittance envelope, will also be reading the questions you ask of them, in it; or will be made aware of other ways they can both further their contribution (when possible) or support your nonprofit in other ways IF YOUR NONPROFIT MAKES THEM AWARE OF THESE OPTIONS.  This is where layout and content in the remittance envelope become powerful.

Of course the design or layout of the envelope must be uncluttered, clear, and pertinent.  Space, of course, no matter what size remittance a nonprofit uses, is limited.  So, all of its content must only be that of the highest likelihood to produce a donation and repeat support.  This content, it just so happens, tends to also be the information that is the most helpful and informative to the donor. Click on the following image for an excellent example of pertinent and helpful content for the donor and organization:

Donation Remittence Template - All rights reserved
All Rights Reserved.  Arlene M. Spencer.
When looking over the content that I've recommended, above, consider the potential donor to be someone that is interested in the cause your organization serves, and is interested in seeing the community continue to receive the services or products your nonprofit provides to your community.  Think of the potential donor as someone who is genuinely interested in your organization's welfare and further success.  If they wish to support your agency, then ask them in the remittance for the help you need, but too, let them know in what vast many different ways they may support it.  They may not know that these are the many different options they have to help your agency.  They may always say "no", of course - but at least they've been made aware.

Important things to keep in mind in the remittance's design:

__ Obviously, on the outside of the envelope you'll print your organization's name and mailing address.  You'll also include a box that either provides pre-paid postage or requests a postage stamp be affixed in the postage spot.  Finally, you'll include at least four blank lines in the return address spot.

__ Both inside the envelope flap, and on exterior of the envelope under the flap, is where the above information that I suggest in my graphic can be placed (obviously omitting what you wish or adding what you wish, such as maybe the demographics of the population your organization serves, or the reason why your organization's work is necessary, etc.).

__ What is key - especially since you do not want to be printing and then re-printing remittance envelopes (except in important instances, such as the change of the organization's mailing address, of course); remember not to put organizational information on the envelope that will become outdated quickly.  For instance, if you include the budget breakdown for your organization's operations for 2012 on the inner envelope (to demonstrate to the potential donor how well the organization is run and where each penny of every dollar raised goes - which of course is great content in the actual appeal letter) then you'll need to recycle any of the remittance envelopes with that information on it in 2013 and after!

__ Also, please keep your donor's need for privacy in mind.  In all places on the remittance where you request their contact or other information (wherever you provide a prompt for them to fill in) - be sure that the envelope flap covers it while it's in transit back to your organization through the mail.  Otherwise, people will not respond with information filled in. 

__ As such, be sure, too, that the adhesive strip that secures your remittance envelope will neither cover up (and seal over) or expose any of the donor's filled in information after they've filled it out and then sealed the remittance envelope to mail it back to you.

__ Finally, but not of least importance, the United States Postal Service provides information and suggested guidelines and helpful tips to nonprofits or other organizations that are having remittance envelopes printed up for regular postal use.  See their USPS Quick Service Guide 201c Courtesy Reply Mail guide.  It's helpful and I recommend you look at it, as you design your remittance, as well. 

Once you have your template submitted to your printer, they will offer to give you a sample or draft of a single remittance, per your design, if you wish.  I would take them up on it BEFORE authorizing the entire order be printed so that you can take that sample to one or two local Post Offices.  Actually ask a post master there what they think of the proof and if there are any changes they'd recommend or problems donors may have mailing them back to you.  Do this.  It is worth the time it will take to do.  Do it before you authorize the entire remittance print order.  This ounce of prudence can save your organization and its donors frustration, time, money, and your organization's professionalism will remain in tact.

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