Ever had a donor ask you that?  Has anyone expressed concern about how you’re wasting valuable dollars on notepads, labels, cards, and other trinkets instead of using the money to help people?

First a few nuggets about freemiums (the items you send in your acquisition packages to entice people to give; it’s a free gift and not the same as a back-end premium).

  • Freemiums tend to boost response so you tend to acquire more new donors
  • These donors tend to be lower dollar donors
  • It’s usually more difficult to get a second gift from these donors unless you continue sending freebies and even then response tends to drop
  • As a rule, these donors are especially challenging to upgrade

These generalities come from a variety of studies but there are exceptions to every rule.  Your nonprofit may have different results based on your own testing.

In any event, if your charity has made the business decision to use freemiums (front-end premiums) and/or back-end premiums, then I assume it’s cost effective for you.  Your own testing (i.e., what works for your nonprofit), has shown you acquire and retain more quality donors with premiums than without.

Of course, very few donors understand the business of fundraising.  No reason why they should either.  And to the donors who object to freemiums such as notepads, labels, pens, etc . . . . these items seem like a dreadful waste of money.

Many ways to respond

How you respond depends partly on how many donors voice concerns over freemiums and how you’re staffed.  Here are options on the various channels you might use to answer their question:

  1. Call them
  2. Send a personalized email (no form or template message)
  3. Send a personalized note in the mail
  4. Periodically put a short article in your newsletter for all to see
  5. If there’s room, add a short footnote to the reply device of direct mail letters with these freemiums

What do you say?

I can’t give a one-size-fits-all reply to this question.  A lot depends on which channel you use when you reply and exactly what the donor said.  A lot also depends on the history of your charity: what you’ve tested; options you do or do not give donors to opt-out of mailings (frequency or type); how you normally respond to donors; and so forth.

But if you’re sending them a personalized note, you MIGHT be able to use something like this:

  • Thanks so much for your note.
  • I’m always glad to hear from you and anyone who helps us <insert phrase on what you do; or mention something from the last letter the donor responded to>.  Your loyalty and concern are deeply appreciated.
  • You asked me, “<insert the gist of their question quoting their words as much as possible.>”
  • It’s not easy to explain the complexities of fundraising.  Let me assure you, however, that I wouldn’t send out <fill in the blank on type of freemium> unless it was cost-effective.
  • I know it’s hard to believe . . . but we raise more money this way.  In the long run we raise far more than we spend mailing out packages like these!
  • Keeping costs as low as possible while attracting more supporters and raising more money is a priority.  Like you, I want as much of your hard-earned money as possible going to help <insert a key phrase about what you do>.

Now IF it’s practical for your organization to give these people the option not to receive freemium packages, then do so.  However, if that isn’t feasible then you’ll also have to explain why you keep sending them to this donor. 

Close your message with more praise and gratitude.  Perhaps give them your phone number (direct line) to call if they want more information and use a live signature.

How have you addressed this with your donors?  What’s your experience with this issue?  Drop me a line and I’ll share your comments (and keep your org anonymous if you wish) with readers so we can all benefit . . . resources@pkscribe.com  Thank you!

Charities and professional associations repeatedly engage Karen Zapp to write copy to help them achieve their missions.  An engineer-turned-copywriter, Karen’s inspired storytelling captures the passion of these missions.  And she conveys their stories so readers are motivated to respond at three levels: personally, emotionally, and intellectually. (Article reprinted with permission from Karen Zapp’s newsletter, the Zapp Nonprofit Leader.”  http://zappnonprofitblog.com/)

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