When you look at the incentives non-profits have been offering over the years in their direct mail appeals, it always seems the same: a hat, an umbrella, a sheet of address labels. But look away, then look back, and you'll see this perception is no longer entirely accurate.
More fundraisers are following the advice of the late Dick Benson: "Two premiums are frequently better than one." This escalation in the use of both freemiums and premiums is being led by some of the biggest organizations around.
For many years, the "Message of Hope" has been the workhorse acquisition package for Amnesty International. But now, besides the personalized labels mailed in the effort, there's a buckslip announcing a sweetener: a free tote bag. Besides its practical value, the tote is a logical tie-in with Amnesty's message because it helps the new member to "show the world your commitment to human rights" (Archive code #601-171583-1006C, go to our Who's Mailing What! Archive to order a PDF).
World Wildlife Fund, though, has been promoting a tote bag as part of its membership efforts for well over a decade. Recent mailings tout the social value of carrying one; not only do they reduce plastic waste, other people will "know you support conservation." However, one tote may no longer be enough to ensure a good response. Beginning in 2008, WWF upped its ante to two tote bags, and in 2010, to three. "One is never enough," says the latest buckslip. "Keep all or give one to a friend," it advises, which in addition to the environmental benefits, is a good way to raise the group's brand awareness (Archive code #610-171878-1007B).
As for freemiums, there's been an upswing in the inclusion of coins in mailings, as noted recently in USA Today. For example, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) spruced up its 9-year-old labels-and-notepads control by spot-gluing a nickel to the reply panel of the label sheet (Archive code #601-177353-1007). Its outline shows through the outer, and the arrowed teaser calls even more attention to it: "How can your nickel help a hero?" The letter inside makes the nickel part of the pitch, that many veterans have found themselves without "even two nickels to rub together," and asks for it to be returned with a donation.
New to the mailstream are efforts from non-profits that stand out because they include a large item usually considered to be a back-end premium. St. Bonaventure Indian Mission & School's 12" x 15" cardboard envelope included a polywrapped fleece blanket. Oddly, the appeal (for water supplies) makes no mention of this freemium whatsoever (Archive code #606-717791-1004). Humane Society of the United States, always a generous supplier of freebies, also mailed a blanket, this one in a hard-to-miss 11" x 13-1/2" polybag . But HSUS mentions it in the pitch against animal cruelty, at one point calling it "a reminder of the comfort and security your new membership brings" (Archive code #610-171869-1001).
And the venerable tote bag? Paralyzed Veterans of America mailed one, selling its hundreds of possible uses, its symbolism as "message of support and hope," and only asking for a $3 donation in return (Archive code #604-171930-1006B). AmeriCares enclosed a tote in a campaign that asks a supporter to first, imagine that bag filled with supplies for a clinic, then visualize 35 bags for 35 clinics. It's a good way to motivate a donor (their dollar goes far), show appreciation for their help, and promote the group's brand (Archive code #605-174932-1008).