Give Your Mail a Boost with Low-Cost Premiums

Date Published
Leanne Barkley

Ask a group of fundraising professionals how they feel about including low-cost premiums or “freemiums” into their direct mail program and you’ll often find that opinions are split — people either love them or hate them.

The truth is, if used correctly, premiums can offer a tangible connection to a nonprofit’s mission while helping to lift response and revenue for a given appeal.

In its simplest form, a premium is a nice way to say “thank you” to your active donors for their steadfast support. In regard to retention, it might be just the thing that leads a lapsed donor to opening your letter and, subsequently, getting reacquainted with you. Furthermore, the revenue implications of using premiums can be very real. I’ve seen appeals containing address labels pull nearly as much revenue as Challenge Match packages. At the end of the day, that extra revenue earned is critical to helping nonprofits fulfill their missions.

Here are a few tips about how to incorporate premiums into your program:

    1. Whether they’re “freemiums,” front-end premiums, or back-end premiums, use them sparingly. Doing so will help maintain a philanthropic (rather than transactional) relationship with your donors.
    2. Choose a premium that connects with your mission. There are many low-cost options available such as supporter cards, window clings, decals, address labels, double ornaments, tote bags, and more. Test something that has a natural connection with your message and mission. For food banks or food pantries try a “shopping list” notepad. For those with an educational focus, send a beautifully designed bookmark. This is your opportunity to get creative. And, don’t forget to think about what existing content you might have (like recipes, how-to guides, publications, etc.) that can be leveraged here too.
    3. Consider the timing. Double ornaments work well around the holidays. Bookmarks tie in with a back-to-school theme. Address labels work at many times throughout the year, so reserve them for a time slot that needs a lift. For example, you may not need to utilize labels during a year-end campaign, but they can give you the boost in the spring when results start to fall off.
    4. Be mindful of your file size. If your mail file is small, it could be a challenge to recoup the costs of some premiums based on expense. Crunch the numbers first to ensure a better net revenue return.
    5. Don’t forget about segmentation. You don’t have to roll out with a premium for everyone. You could send it just to your active donors… or just your lapsed supporters… or maybe just those acquired through on-air pledge drives. Be sure to track results by segment to get a sense of how different donor audiences respond.

If you have always said “no!” to the suggestion of premiums in the past, I encourage you to reconsider. Analyze your solicitation schedule to see if there might be one or two opportunities to create a meaningful test. Then give it a try. This technique might just give you the extra boost you need to reach your always-growing revenue goals.

About the Author:
Leanne Barkley
Account Manager, Agency Services

My role is to work closely with our clients to create and execute successful fundraising campaigns. Some of my responsibilities include developing annual budgets, providing creative and strategic recommendations, analyzing campaign results reports, and ensuring that my clients have everything they need to maximize their program’s fundraising potential.

Years of experience in the industry


What excites you about your work at AFG?

Our clients are the best! I feel incredibly lucky to work with several outstanding organizations across that country that have a very real and important impact in their local communities.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Spending time with my family outdoors – we love kayaking, going on hikes, doing yard work (admittedly, I might be the only one who likes the yard work), camping, etc. Just get me out in the fresh air and I’m happy.

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