Nonprofit Branding: Wrapping Up the Fundraising Premium Discussion

Today’s post is a Recipe for Success: a quick summary of the key points in our discussion of contributor incentives.

After the summary we comment about next week’s  branding issue, motivated by a tragedy that recently befell a dear friend. That accident underscored our appreciation of a brand-enhancing public service campaign conducted by the wonderful guys at Car Talk. It’s coming next week, but I’ll preview the topic below.

First, a Wrap-up of our discussion on fundraising premiums – AKA “contributor incentives”:

At the request of a reader (and client) we earlier posted a series of commentaries about fundraising premiums. Here are the Basic Principles to take away from that discussion:

First Principle: Nonprofit executives can easily develop a list of the pros and cons about contributor incentives. Each one an interesting and persuasive  Each deserves serious evaluation before a nonprofit decides whether or not to use premiums in its fundraising program.

Second Principle: Arguments in support of fundraising premiums are based on research and empirical evidence. By contrast, it appears that most arguments against premiums tend to evolve from limited, and often disappointing, personal involvement.

Third Principle: We explained, with references/links to earlier topic-specific posts, that your most loyal constituents, the ones most likely to consider making a contribution, want to own products with your logo. They want those items because they spotlight affiliation with your cause – thus enabling supporters to brand themselves with evidence of commitment to your mission.

Fourth Principle: The branding power of your logo is enormous – but that power has an inherent risk. You must apply your logo only to products whose quality will not betray your brand.  (This principle was also explained with links referencing extensive posts on the topic.)

Fifth Principle: The “Secret Sauce” is a marketing concept named “perceived value.”   The product to be turned into a fundraising incentive begins as an inert, inexpensive and usually fairly common item. It does not become a fundraising premium until it has been artfully and persuasively associated with your organization’s mission and its values. (We then provided several examples of successful premiums to illustrate perceived value.)

Sixth Principle: A product does not become a premium by itself. You are the key to building and communicating perceived value. That means you are the key to making the product become an effective fundraising tool that energizes your constituency and produces additional revenue.

There is plenty of content in this blog about the above principles.  In our 26 years as the primary supplier to the nation’s public radio system we have repeatedly seen a contrast which illustrates these principles: a premium will be wildly successful in attracting contributions at one station…….and the identical premium will be a complete dud at another station. Same premium. Same audience demographics. Different presentations. Different results.

We check into these situations and usually find substantial variances in the way the stations understood and presented the premium – the way they established its perceived value through communications on-air, in print and online. One station did it effectively. The other did not. One believed the premium succeeded. The other believed it failed.

Now let’s consider the topic of next week’s post – piggyback brand enhancement. The example we will use is distracted driving.

It happens that Tom and Ray (Car Talk’s Click & Clack) were among the first public figures to attack cell phone use by drivers. The brothers are rabid about this subject and have been conducting a brilliant public service campaign opposing this risky behavior.

Last week a very special friend of ours was rear-ended by a clown in a speeding truck who was more interested in texting his message than he was in the safety of our friend and her grandson. The result of his self-absorbed stupidity: broken ribs, vertebrae, pelvis and legs for the grandmother and two broken legs for her five year old grandchild.

So next week we’ll write about how Tom and Ray have used their powerful NPR platform to rant about drivers and cell phones. We’ll show some branding products they developed to communicate their message. We’ll also share some fascinating – and alarming – facts about distracted driving their Harvard and MIT interns researched. The information is important to the Car Talk Family. And now, because of our friend, it is personal. Fortunately,  the Car Talk campaign also demonstrates good branding by association – so we can use this blog to spread the word.


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