Premium Watch: 'Tis the Season ... for Premiums
Maybe it was the holiday spirit, but fundraisers seemed keen to deliver a little more this past December. Not only did the Who's Mailing What! Archive's December mail stream bring in some 75 percent more nonprofit mailings than 2004's monthly norm, but it also saw a bump in back- and front-end premium usage. For the first 11 months of 2004, fundraisers offered incentives in about 20.6 percent of mailings, but these freebies could be found in 34 percent of their December mailings, up almost 50 percent from December 2003.
The most popular gift of the gift-giving season had to be apparel, with 36 percent of premium-mailing nonprofits, such as The Nature Conservancy (Archive code #603-172397-0412A), The Ocean Conservancy (Archive code #603-171775-0412) and The Humane Society (Archive code #610-171869-0412A), offering T-shirts, windbreakers and embroidered ball caps, which also appeared in mailings for Civil War Preservation Trust (Archive code #602-699647-0412), Central Park Conservancy (Archive code #603-172725-0412), WNYC New York Public Radio (Archive code #602-173650-0412) and National Audubon Society (Archive code #715-174801-0412).
Aside from the clothes off their backs, some other nonprofit premium offers include two different rosaries from Missionary Oblates (Archive code #609-173192-0412A; #609-173192-0412B ); stuffed animals from Defenders of Wildlife (Archive code #610-171874-0412), World Wildlife Fund (Archive code #610-171878-0412A) and Environmental Defense (Archive code #603-171921-0412); and CDs from Human Rights Campaign (Archive code #601-174553-0412) and the Metropolitan Opera (Archive code #602-171920-0412).
An interesting item of note in some of these mailings is the option to decline receipt of the premium. Two mailersHuman Rights Campaign and WNYCfeatured the oft-seen check box that allows respondents to opt-out of the premium to save the organization money. But some other mailers took an approach that we have not seen before by inviting donors to take advantage of their full tax credit by declining the premium.
For example, the Humane Society placed this tagline on the bottom of an insert that outlines its premium offerings: "Your contribution is tax-
deductible less $3 for each free gift you elect to receive." The reply device then requires respondents opt-in for which premium items they would like, allowing them to choose noneand receive a full tax credit. Similarly, the reply device in a mailing from The Actors' Fund (Archive code #602-693686-0412) includes a check box that reads, "I choose not to accept my premiums/free tickets. I'd like my gift to be fully tax-deductible."
Central Park Conservancy makes a stronger connection between declining a premium and getting a bigger tax break on its reply device: "Please do not send me any benefit items right now so my donation is 100% tax-deductible."
This emphasis on tax credits may be due to the timing of the mailings. The end of the calendar year is also the end of the fiscal year for individual donors, and as they prepare their finances for tax filings, deductions will be a top-of-mind concern. It will be interesting to note over the next few months if this is a growing trend or a seasonal one.
Of course, there would be no tax credit without that initial donation. Of the nonprofit quid pro quo offers received in December, the average expected donation is $32.77, but this amount is skewed by a few mailers whose ask string begins at $100; 59 percent of nonprofits parted with their calendars, stuffed animals, T-shirts, tote bags, rosaries and the like for a minimum gift of $10 to $30.