I don’t need a miniature duck decoy, another hat or a pad of Post-its to know that my gift is appreciated. In fact, I’d feel better if I didn’t get anything more than an acknowledgement letter. Not everyone feels this way, to be sure, and as a marketer, I see the value of having supporters advertise the organization. But what I really want is to know that my contribution is being used wisely.
In the nonprofit sector, giveaways are often used as enticements to get donors to give more. They are used as a way to enhance the value of the relationship. The donor gets the satisfaction of helping a needy organization, providing them an intrinsic return. And on top of that, they get something they (supposedly) want. Gifts are also used to incentivize donors to increase their gifts. For $50 you’ll get a nice hat but for a gift of $150, you get a beautiful fleece vest. This is a tough trap to get out of because donors begin to expect a gift with purchase over time while both the organization and its donors begin to develop an unhealthy obsession around the incentive. In effect, the gift is like a coupon or discount: the original intent is to motivate the target audience, but if over-used, the audience becomes less likely to act without the incentive. And how do you feel about the gift and the organization when the zipper breaks on the vest after the first week?
The value for the donor HAS to be in the product itself – and I’m not talking about the hat. The product is the mission-based activities the organization provides. What will the gift enable the organization to accomplish? The impact is certainly going to be less if part of the budget goes toward buying the giveaway.
Gifts can be useful and even powerful, but organizations considering using them should think strategically about the objective, consider the cost of the gift, whether they have over-used this strategy, and think about how ALL donors will react to the gift.
What’s the most meaningful gift you received as a thank you? What about your least meaningful?