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BRM EnvelopeBRM stands for business reply mail, which means the postage is pre-paid. CRM stands for courtesy reply mail, which means the recipient is responsible for applying postage. Both are viable alternatives for nonprofits to send to potential donors. The question is, which one would work best for your organization?


Business reply envelopes have long been a standard among many nonprofits. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for potential donors to reply. They don’t have to worry about having postage stamps on hand or stopping by the post office to send out a charitable donation.

The problem is that using pre-paid envelopes adds costs that the nonprofit will have to bear. That, of course, reduces the revenue available for their cause. There is also an annual fee for business reply mail as well as per piece fee.

Courtesy reply envelopes are the lower cost option. The nonprofit does have a small cost with purchase, printing, and insertion, but it is less than the cost of pre-paid envelopes. The donor then bears the cost of the postage, leaving more revenue available for the nonprofit’s cause.

The downside of courtesy reply envelopes is that donors may opt out of sending a donation if they have to pay for postage or go to the post office.


It actually depends on what you are sending out. Many nonprofits have found non-donation mailings (surveys, brochures, etc.) can be sent with just a courtesy reply envelope, with very little impact to the response rate. This holds true, in some cases, when it comes to subscription renewals and membership payments.

Things are a bit different if you are talking about a donation campaign. The nonprofit is appealing to current, past, and potential donors to make a monetary contribution. There is an expectation from some donors that the only thing necessary is to write a check or fill out credit card information. The necessity of adding postage to an envelope can turn some donors off.

What do you do? Test your donor base.

If you are currently using pre-paid envelopes, don’t make a sudden change. You need to test what your donation pool response will be. Send out your normal pre-paid envelopes to most of your donor base. But, for 10% to 15% of that base, send out a courtesy reply envelope instead. Then track the response rate for each. You may find that the response rate is similar. Or you may find that your donations dropped off when you didn’t provide a pre-paid envelope. The only way you will know is to test.


Call McKenzie Parker