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I Have Enough Coffee Mugs

I spent most of my professional career in public radio. That means I’ve done my share of on-air fund drives. I’ve pitched the value of the programming and offered my share of coffee mugs, tote bags, and station branded T-shirts.  

When I’ve donated blood, they’ve given me a T-shirt I don’t wear.  

I donated to another nonprofit that sent me a book I will probably never read.  

There is a belief that premiums move people from consumers to donor. I’m not so sure that is true. But tell that to planners of membership campaigns.  

The promotional product industry is big business. It’s a 24 billion dollar industry in the United States.  

But what if nonprofits focused on a unique experience related to their niche?

But what if nonprofits focused on unique experiences related to their niche? 

At a fundraising event for a zoological society, they auctioned off a behind the scenes tour of the zoo. We got to go. It was a real kick to see the elephants being fed, the Lions being coaxed into their nighttime quarters. I even fed a giraffe. I understand that no zoo can do 100 of these tours, but maybe they could do that for more of their donors. That single experience certainly helped secure my loyalty to that organization.  

That got me thinking.  

What if more nonprofits used experiences instead of premiums to woo gifts? 

The local public radio station could let me record a station ID that my friends would hear.  

The local public TV station might let me watch the production of a local show.  

The local theater group could let me learn about set design or meet an actor.  

You get the point.  

Admittedly it would take time to coordinate these experiences, but there is also a hard cost to buying all those tote bags that are never used. But new tariffs on merchandise coming from China will only increase the cost to purchase. Plus, postage costs keep going up to mail them out.  

I’m willing to bet that unique experiences will generate more loyalty than the traditional thank you gifts. Try it. 

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