Focus On: Premiums: Here Donor, Donor
Address labels traditionally have been the workhorses of the incentive world (25 percent of all unique acquisition campaigns mailed over the past three years included them), but we’re seeing some interesting creative break-outs by nonprofits. One tactic noted increasingly in acquisition over the past 12 months is “bundling” (including multiple premiums in one package). Typically, an address label sheet is one of the elements, along with additional items such as notepads, bookmarks and/or greeting cards. Nonprofits use this strategy to increase the perceived value of a mail piece, and in some cases to test safely into a new creative/premium by keeping a key element of the control. We’re also seeing back-end premiums bundled with front-end, a strategy employed to garner the higher response rates seen with up-front premiums while maintaining acceptable average gift levels (with the minimum ask usually required for a back-end premium).
Back-end premiums have typically included merchandise items such as backpacks, blankets and hats. Environmental and humanitarian organizations frequently also have used mission-related newsletters as back-end premiums. We’re seeing increased usage of newsletter premiums by those categories, as well as a new usage by the general health/charity category nonprofits.
Regardless of the specific premium used, we’re also seeing that many mailers are rotating their creative design more quickly than ever before. Where a typical creative shelf-life used to be two-plus years, art is now turning over as fast as every six to nine months for some of the major nonprofit mailers. Again, the concepts of competition and list-universe saturation create an increased need to keep mail pieces fresh.
The big question
So, what’s the next premium that will replace labels and breathe some life back into lagging response rates? It’ll be difficult to replace the address label, with its highly consumable nature, popularity among the core nonprofit demographic and relatively low cost. In an effort to stand out in the cluttered mailbox, some nonprofits are turning to some out-of-the-box testing, including rubber bracelets and bumper stickers as well as unique, high-affinity items ranging from dog tags to “worry dolls.” These items might be more likely to appeal to a slightly younger donor, the holy grail of today’s nonprofit acquisition programs. Merchandise premiums such as these, as well as jewelry, pens/pencils and prayer cards, have seen a slight increase over the past three years.