It’s been proven time and time again that offering something for free gets people to pull out their wallets.
No matter who you are, what societal class you identify with, race, gender, sexual orientation… we’re all equal when it comes to getting something for free.
Everyone loves it.
But, when you are asking someone to donate money to a cause… do people still expect to get something for free?
Research shows that, alas, we all still do.
When I donate money to a cause I believe in, my intellect screams, “No! Put every cent of my money to Saving the Whales!” But… the baser side of my brain, the side I have far less control of, screams, “Oooooo! A free tote bag? I’m in!”
Chances are, if you are a marketer of an environmental organization, you know this already. The research is there to support the use of a premium. Which, in fundraising terms, we like to call a “contribution incentive.” Somehow this sounds less smarmy.
If you are unsure whether a premium, excuse me, “incentive,” would work in the environmental field, consider this: Most environmental organizations are nonprofits. Nonprofits account for $5 billion of the $19 billion a year promotional products industry (branding your logo for marketing and fundraising purposes).
Who would rather have a free tote bag than an extra portion of their donation go to their good cause?
Unfortunately, just about everybody. As other’s before me have pointed out, in a perfect world, your noble mission alone would be enough to support you, your staff, and your projects. But… obviously, noble reasons alone aren’t enough to keep you in Patagonias’.
Many people respond to incentives because they want free stuff. Others are a bit lazy and need the incentive to drive the physical action of pulling out their wallet.
But, the most important type of person who will be receiving your incentive/premium, is the one who feels a strong affinity to your cause. Whatever free thing you give to them, they will most likely proudly display, as it shows their own association with you, a company they admire and value.
If I were a marketer of an environmental organization, I would target those prospects for my incentive.
What should you give as a contribution incentive?
That depends. Your market researcher should be able to find the perfect thing for each specific campaign.
But since I am familiar with environmentalists, and the type of person who would normally donate to an environmental organization, I have some ideas for you.
Keep this in mind: your prospects are very aware of what they would like their donations to be supporting.
A card denoting membership to your awesome society just isn’t going to cut it. Nor is a coffee mug, a free tote bag (however practical that might seem…), or any of the other standard premium items that could bear your logo.
To really hook a prospect that has a high chance of using your premium to its maximum intent, it has to be specifically related to either your mission or your campaign.
Related premiums rise above the mass-produced, imported plastic crap. They give us information, authenticity, and connect us to part of a like-minded community.
Have an organization dedicated to the national parks or getting kids out in nature? Give us a special report on how to find the perfect camping spot in the hottest park.
Are you running an organization providing education on plastic bottles or providing clean water to third world countries? Give us a reusable water bottle, with information on why we should use it. And don’t forget to stick your logo on it.
My personal long-running favorite is the Arbor Day Foundation’s contribution incentive. With your low $10 annual fee, you get a host of small incentives… plus 10 free trees! (Just so you know, I don’t write for Arbor Day, and never have, although I would be more than happy to.)
The reason this is my favorite incentive should be perfectly clear… not only does the prospect get something (ten free trees is seriously awesome if you’re into that sort of thing) for a very low price, but the incentive directly and firmly supports Arbor Day’s very mission.
Sure, I’d love a water bottle with their logo on it, because I believe in their organization’s mission, but their mission is better served by supplying me with those 10 free trees. And I love them all the more for it. Not only do I get something for free, but my money goes directly to a main arm of their mission.
Still unsure? Just make sure you choose a premium your specific prospects sees as a tangible benefit.
Likely, if someone is donating to your environmental organization they can go buy their own tote bags. So make it count. Give them a reason why this particular tote bag coincides with your mission and supports it.
Like every other marketing tool, especially for environmental organizations trying to build memberships, a related contribution incentive/premium will form a relationship. And if you’re really lucky, it will open up a conversation. And from there, your investment in that incentive will be worth every penny.