pixabay box of chocolates

I recently received a box of candy that was placed within a larger gift package. I was delighted; I’m a big fan of chocolate.

Imagine my disappointment when I opened the box to discover it contained a false bottom. A cardboard insert substantially reduced the interior space within the box. I felt cheated! There was 25% less candy inside that box than I’d been led to believe.

Sometimes I feel the same way when I receive a direct mail fundraising package with text on the carrier envelope proclaiming Free Gift Enclosed or Open now to receive your free gift. Then, when I open the package, I quickly discover there’s no gift inside, but a gift awaits me (in possibly 4 to 6 weeks) if I send a donation of a certain amount (while quantities last).

Yes, backend premiums work well for many charities, to increase the average gift, sometimes raising the response rate, too. Personally, I prefer accuracy in advertising.

So I’m a big fan of frontend premiums, offering donors and prospects an upfront gift, in a package that can accurately proclaim Your Free Gift Inside! This is an especially successful strategy when appealing to Catholic donors and prospects, because of the rich heritage of “religious articles” associated with Catholic faith and life.

These religious articles include rosaries, medals, plaques, statues, key rings, and prayer books associated with devotion to Christ, the Blessed Mother, and the Saints. Time and again these gifts enrich the spiritual life of the donor, complement the evangelical mission of the organization, and offer Catholics spiritual aids to express and nourish their faith.

Appealing to the most responsive segment

By offering these gifts up front, I’ve seen Renewal response rates consistently top 15%, proving not only high net income, but also keeping donors active and engaged. In Acquisition packages, motivating prospects with a high-value, upfront religious gift reliably achieves response rates topping 4%, with a cost to acquire under $5.00.

The stars really align when you realize that devotional donors are also the largest segment within the available universe of Catholic prospect donors. Fostering Catholic devotion in your fundraising can improve possible file growth to the largest numbers experienced by Catholic charities in the U.S.

Retaining loyal supporters

The direct mail maxim “so acquired, so renewed” is strongly evident with upfront donor incentives, so organizations are wise to commit to offering their newly acquired donors two or three religious gifts each year. With very high renewal rates (hence, much higher-than-average donor retention), increasing average gifts (based on the quality of donor cultivation efforts), and high net income, this is a win-win for Catholic nonprofits as well as for those who love to support them.

And Catholic religious articles make great backend donor gifts, too. Just be sure you’re accurate in your advertising. Like in life, donors respond best when their “box of chocolates” is full.

Paul Daleo is Senior Vice President of Fundraising at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For more information about improving nonprofit fundraising and donor retention, contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.