Many charities and non-profit organizations often consider providing a gift to donors as way of saying “thank you” for their generosity.

But what affect does giving a gift to donors have on donations?

Will potential donors give more or less as a result of receiving a gift for their generosity?

There is some debate on the effectiveness of providing a thank you gift as a means to increase donations. In a series of experiments conducted by Yale researchers, they concluded the gift might have unintended consequences. The researchers found the thought of receiving a gift in return for an altruistic act reduced the positive feelings of the potential donors and thus reduced the size of the average gift. Essentially, for these participants, giving was a selfless act, and offering a gift in exchange made it seem less so.

However, Michael Kulpinsky, a Senior VP with Innovative Communications shared in his post, 5 Proven Ways to Use Premiums to Drive Fundraising Success, how his organization helped nonprofits raise hundreds of millions of dollars using premiums. He stated,

“these nonprofits use premiums [gifts] because they work… thousands of smart, prudent charities have reached the conclusion – after rigorous testing – that premiums can drive significant, incremental fundraising success in donor acquisition, reactivation and retention programs.”

5 Things to Consider when Using Thank-You Gifts

If you are interested in boosting donations or retaining existing donors, there are few things to consider when providing a thank you gift.

1. Unconditional gifts
Giving an unconditional gift to everyone – regardless of whether or not they donate – may increase the frequency of donations, according to another study conducted by Armin Falk.

He found that donations were 17% more frequent when a small gift was included and 75% more frequent when a larger gift was included. An unconditional gift creates a desire to reciprocate on the part of the recipient, making him more likely to offer a donation in return for the gift.

2.Reframing the gift
A reusable shopping bag bearing a children’s hospital logo was used in the Yale study, and fundraising results were better when the gift’s purpose was reframed as being pro-social and raising awareness of the charity or non-profit’s mission.

Branded items help spread the charity’s message like a walking billboard each time a supporter wears or uses the branded item.

3.Levels of gifts
Offering different levels of gifts is an effective way to boost donations. For example, PBS stations will often promote CDs, DVDS, and other gifts in return for donations of a certain level.

Donors, particularly those who are already inclined to give, are tempted to boost their donation somewhat to get a more valuable item.

4.Unexpected gifts
Gifts that are not promised but arrive unexpectedly after the donation may encourage the donor to give again. Surprise gifts generate feelings of goodwill, and if the item is branded, it will serve as a reminder of the charity or non-profit.

5.The chance to opt out
Charities and non-profits should offer an option online or in mailings that allows donors to opt out of the gift. Providing a choice gives control to the donor and they can decide whether or not the gift is necessary.

Determine what works best for your organization

Ultimately, charities and non-profits should analyze the results of their thank-you gifts to determine which approach works best.

Are you interested in learning more about how branded merchandise can help your fundraising efforts? Contact us today and we would love to talk through some different options.