What to say to donors who dislike premiums

in Copywriting - Nonprofit,Cultivation & Stewardship,Direct Mail

Earlier this fall I wrote a guest blog post for a colleague and friend, Blase Ciabaton, “Give a ‘lift’ to your nonprofit direct mail program” on his blog, The Direct Mail Man

Blase received a question from one of his readers last week on the post I wrote for him:How do you recommend replying to donors who express grave concerns about how expensive DRM packages (e.g. notepads, labels, pens, etc.) affect our cost of fundraising?”

In addition to his own answer (which I urge you to read), Blase asked me to also weigh in with an answer to his reader.  Here goes . . .

If your nonprofit 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 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 . . . . they seem like a dreadful waste of money.

Many ways to respond

Depending upon how many donors write to you and how you’re staffed to respond, here are options on the various channels you might use to answer their question:

– Call them

– Send a personalized email (no form or template message)

– Send a personalized note in the mail

– Periodically put a short article in your newsletter

– 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 supports our work.  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 it 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.  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.  If not, you’ll also have to explain why you keep sending them to this donor.  Close with more praise and gratitude

If you haven’t already done so, I do recommend you read my original post and Blase Ciabaton’s reply to this reader’s question.  Oh and here’s an article from “Direct Marketing IQ” on how nonprofits are using freemiums and premiums that might also be of interest, “A Premium (and Freemium) Arms Race.”

How have you addressed this with your donors?  Please share your experience below by adding a comment.

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