Premiums and Paid Products Spotlight: Primed for Premiums?
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A special section means a special Editor’s Note, which means I get to turn over the reins to some special guests. So I spoke with consultant Pamela Barden, founder and president of PJBarden Inc. and member of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board, and copywriter Willis Turner, senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer, who shared some thoughts on the use of premiums in fundraising. Welcome to the conversation!
Margaret Battistelli Gardner: How would you describe the place of premiums in fundraising?
Pamela Barden: Premiums are a great way to deepen the relationship with a fledgling donor. This requires careful choice of the premium to find one that enhances your mission. For example, a health care agency may select a small first-aid kit, or a museum could offer a few note cards featuring something from its collection. I have used a small, low-cost, mission-related premium to secure a second gift from a new donor; a premium can be that added incentive to encourage a stronger link between the donor and the nonprofit.
Willis Turner: It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. The promise of the premium can be very alluring. For a relatively small investment you can reasonably predict that significantly more people will respond to your mailing. And in many cases, that can be all you want. Sometimes you just need to get your numbers up, and premiums can definitely help. The long-term return, though, can be more challenging. Premium donors are generally a lot harder to renew. Some organizations need to enroll four times as many premium as non-premium donors to net the same amount of revenue.
MBG: Has it changed over the past few years?
PB: When I started in fundraising 34 years ago, premiums were incentives to get a gift, and they may or may not be related to the mission. I found in one organization we were essentially operating as a tax-deductible book-of-the-month club. With the tightening of budgets, premiums have become persona non grata in many nonprofits. Also, studies have shown that premium donors are not always as “sticky” as non-premium donors. That’s why I advocate for mission-focused premiums, not simply trinkets. Premiums can play an important role if they are built into the strategy, not just tacked on in a desperate attempt to breathe life into a dying program or mailing list.