The Trinket Dilemma: Considering the Pros and Cons of Premium Incentives
May 1, 2009

Sugarcoat it all you want, but offering premiums in an acquisition campaign is, essentially, bribery. And pretty unsubtle bribery at that.
You’re saying to a prospect, “Look, I’m afraid you don’t care enough about my organization’s work to support it out of 
passion or principle, so I’ll offer you this trinket to try and buy your loyalty.”
The dilemma is obvious. You’re going to have much greater loyalty from people who support you because they believe in your cause. But those premiums sure can bring in more donors. At least in the short run.
To a development director, the promise of the premium can be very alluring. For a relatively small investment in mailing labels or tote bags or whatever, you can reasonably predict that significantly more people will respond to your mailing.

The Give and Take of Premium Mailings
October 17, 2007

“The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.” — Tom Waits There’s this economics professor, a pretty cynical guy, who sometimes starts his classes by inviting a student up to the front of the room. He holds out a dollar bill and says, “Here, take this.” The student reaches out and the professor immediately snatches the dollar back. Then he holds it out again, the student reaches again, and again he snatches the dollar back. After repeating this three or four times, the student gives up, annoyed and somewhat embarrassed. The professor turns to the class and says, “That,

Create Donors — Not Addicts
July 1, 2006

One of the most frequent questions I hear as a fundraising consultant is, “Do you believe in using premiums to recruit donors?” It disturbs me, because it almost always is positioned as a “yes” or “no” question. But it’s really not that simple.

On one hand, premiums can be viewed as a wonderful cure to the problem of low response rates. The offer of a low-cost/high-value item as a reward for a contribution often will generate much higher response rates than offers that provide nothing.

Don’t Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
June 1, 2006

Best Friends Animal Society, located in the heart of southern Utah’s golden circle of National Parks, is home to as many as 1,500 dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and other animals. For the past 10 years, the organization had been using the same acquisition package. Although it had done a great job, response rates were dropping, causing the donor file to remain flat.

The situation was dire: If a new package wasn’t created, the file actually would have started to decrease, which could have led to cuts in service.

A Premium Symbol
April 1, 2006

A changing of the guard can be a good time to revamp your direct-mail packages. When Covenant House International brought a new president on board in fall 2003, it needed to change its acquisition packages, which contained a letter signed by the previous president.

The international childcare agency took this opportunity to test a few other ideas in its Spanish-language acqui-sition campaign — namely the premium it was using.

Pedaling Hope
January 1, 2006

Development at the Lance Armstrong Foundation embodies seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong’s demon drive to empower cancer survivors.

Sound Off
January 1, 2006

How has your organization used premiums effectively? Tell us about one of your most successful campaigns.

Here Donor, Donor
October 1, 2005

Premiums can take many forms, from traditional address labels and calendars to the more unusual seed packet or even piggy bank. What they all have in common is the ability to get the mail opened, generate higher response rates (than non-premium efforts), and drive us all crazy with worries about their up-front cost and the value/renewability of the donors they acquire.

Primed for Premiums
November 1, 2004

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.