Focus On: Premiums: Primed for Premiums
Fundraisers radically modify the value proposition with prospects and donors when they offer incentives for giving. Albeit engaging, some experts consider the technique to be short sighted, for renewing premium-acquired donors can be arduous and cost prohibitive.
“Donors have become more inured to premiums over time and often will not respond to appeals without them,” says Fred Vallejo, a Utah-based freelance copywriter who has scribed packages for the African Wildlife Foundation, PBS and the National Audubon Society. “The selling of a premium starts right on the outer envelope and continues in the Johnson Box of the letter and letter itself. When you promote it to that extent, it drives the creative brainstorming and copy platform, and becomes the reason to give.”
Vallejo observed firsthand how PBS stations across the country morphed into “transaction-oriented” organizations.
“Trying to write renewal appeals to donors acquired during a pledge drive — without offering some sort of a second gift — is very difficult,” Vallejo notes. “Renewal rates are often quite low because [PBS] just can’t convert these ‘transactional’ people into committed givers.”
Even if organizations express a clear desire not to offer premiums, for fear of donor attrition, among other things, many are forced to for competitive and strategic reasons. (Get out your name-and-address labels, folks.) And yet some charities have unearthed unique incentive-based campaigns that complement the mission and drive response.
A win-win partnership
One in particular comes from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a nonprofit advocacy group that fights for equal rights for gays and lesbians. Since November 2003, the organization has been offering current members and new donors an unusual back-end premium: a one-year subscription to The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newsmagazine.
“The subscription is an added, mission-driven benefit to our members,” says Charles Robbins, CFRE, director of development. “To us, it’s almost as if new members are receiving an additional newsletter from us every two weeks in the form of The Advocate. It’s a natural extension of our organization.”