Five Maples’ Fundraising Blog

How to design a donor-centric response card for annual appeal mailings

First, grab your donor’s attention. Attract the eye to the card with some spot color.

Then, prime the donor’s brain with an affirmation, a donor benefit word, and a suggested gift amount. Use words like invest, protect, participate, gratitude—words that remind the donor why she is giving.

When donors fill out the response card, it’s their chance to interact with you. This is their part of the conversation, so make it enjoyable, rewarding, and easy for them.

  • Preprint their name and address so they don’t have to do it.
  • Ask for a specific amount, personalized for the donor’s giving history.
  • Give donors choices: let them manage their relationship with you.
  • Collect and correct donor information.

This ask sequence on a response card combines several variable elements as indicated by the {} enclosures.

  • The board member who will sign varies.
  • The sentence can be varied between previous donors and prospects (I want to support, versus I want to renew my support).
  • Previous donors are helpfully reminded of their previous gift amount and date, when appropriate.
  • The variable ask string is based on the donors last gift.


Because choices are valuable to the donor and helpful to the nonprofit, donor reply cards are increasing in size and complexity. Even a well-designed 3.67″ x 8.5″ response form allows only limited choices and small type. Using a printed wallet flap envelope is even more limiting: it can’t be personalized. Why not make it more convenient for the donor? A 7″ x 8.5″ response form that folds to 3.5″ x 8.5″is now being used by many of our clients.

Collect phone and email addresses on the response card since this information changes frequently. But give a reason for your donor to update their information.

When should you use a non-personalized wallet-flap response envelope? When you are making a soft ask―that is, in communications that are not annual appeal mailings. For example:

  • Insert it in your newsletter
  • Nest it behind a holiday card
  • Bind it into your magazine

In these cases including the envelope is a soft reminder and doesn’t contribute to over soliciting. Some will use it to return a gift, especially if you’ve done a good job describing the exciting ways donations are being used.

Here is a menu of items to consider for response cards and envelopes

A list of suggested amounts and what they accomplish can be a helpful addition to the response card.

  • Donor commitment or ask sentence, with a thank you for the last gift (amount and date) and a reminder of how their new gift will help
  • Suggested gift amounts
  • Donor name
  • Donor address
  • Donor home, mobile and/or work phone
  • Donor home email and work email
  • Donor ID number
  • Donor giving history (sets a baseline)
  • Number of years in a row the donor has contributed (encourages consistency)
  • Phone number to make a phone donation
  • Website address to make an online donation
  • Tax deductibility statement
  • Date the fiscal year or campaign ends
  • Choices for designating the gift to a specific need
  • Giving circle or society choices
  • List of suggested amounts and what they accomplish
  • Option to make a gift in memory or honor of someone
  • Choice for the gift to be anonymous or publicized
  • Employer match information request
  • Option to be contacted about making a bequest
  • Pledge schedule
  • Whether the donor wants pledge reminders and how often
  • Credit card information
  • Option to convert to monthly giving
  • Option to give online, with website address
  • Organization logo, address, website
  • Development department contact person, phone number, and email address
  • Mailing and/or donor ID code
  • Option to be removed from the fundraising mailing list or be contacted only by email

Check out our Response Form Gallery for examples of effective response forms.

Need help designing an effective response form?

Using one of our proven templates we can design you a response card customized to your needs. Call Gary at 1-800-437-7780 Ext 104 or Email Me Today!

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