You’ve probably heard of the Ten Commandments, but does this one ring a bell?

“Thou shalt not take without giving in return.

As psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini points out, “there’s not a single human culture that fails to train its members in this rule.” It’s what makes us scramble in the back of the closet for a scented candle and a ribbon when a neighbor unexpectedly shows up with a holiday gift. It’s why 200 families sent holiday cards back to a complete stranger simply because he had sent them one. A story told in this recent National Public Radio broadcast.

What does this mean for your Nonprofit? Inexpensive gifts for potential donors dramatically increase contribution rates. For example, a custom address label only costs about 9 cents, but it almost doubles donor response when compared to a gift-less direct mail piece. Take a page from the Hare Krishnas’ book and hand out flowers or other inexpensive trinkets. Ask for a donation after a passerby has accepted your gift and you might just raise millions like the Krishnas.

Tips to make the rule work for you:

  1. Make it Personal– Custom gifts make the recipient feel valued and make your gift less likely to end up in the trash. Something as simple as personalizing sticky notes for your targeted potential donors could make the difference between a daily reminder of your mission and an addition to the local landfill.
  2. Make it Useful– Give them something they’ll actually use like office supplies, magnets, note cards, or a free song or ring tone from iTunes. Your gift doesn’t have to be an object. Why not provide valuable insights like how your logic models have proven successful or the lessons you’ve learned about turning your activities into desired outcomes?
  3. Don’t Stop Believing– Continue to send gifts to major donors even when they haven’t contributed in a while. Your gift will serve not only as a reminder to donate, but will also create a sense of indebtedness to your organization.

Get in the holiday spirit and give your targeted donors a gift. You may receive more than you expect.

What are some gifts that have helped your organization increase donations? Please share in the Comments section below.

Kathleen_headshot_KDHKathleen Denyer Hall
Associate Product Manager
Sage Nonprofit Solutions