Why I am not a fan of wel­come packs

Written by
Margaux Smith
June 16, 2016

‘Hate’ would be too strong a word. I really just think we can all do so much better.

I know every charity that sends a welcome pack to new donors has the best of intentions. We really are so grateful that someone has made the choice to give to the cause we fight so hard for – to care about what we care about.

We want to show them how much we appreciate that generosity and make them feel special and valued.

But I would argue that sending a big package of ‘stuff’ with glossy brochures and freemiums after they’ve made their gift does the exact opposite.

I went to the post office a few days ago to pick up a package and was surprised to find that it was from a charity I’d just become a regular giver to and that it was rather large. I was surprised, because I’d actually forgotten that I’d signed up, but it was lovely to hear from them. I’d decided on a regular gift online because this particular charity does great work in an area I’m passionate about.

My mood changed when I got the package home and opened it. It contained a short welcome letter that thanked and welcomed me briefly, but was more about the current campaigns that the charity runs and how important they are. Attached was a monthly donor membership card which I have no idea what I’m meant to do with. The whole thing just had the feel of formula to it.

But of course, that’s not what my eye went to first or even second or third. Because there was a tote bag, a notepad with a magnet on the back and four shiny A5 leaflets about different campaigns. There was an extra thick, glossy magazine with ‘Supporter Update’ written on the front. And even three bumper stickers (not very useful since I don’t own a car).


Now, I’m a fundraiser who works with, and loves, successful premium acquisition packs. I know how fantastic ‘stuff’ in the pack can be to acquire new donors. And, as a fundraiser, I know that this welcome pack probably only cost the charity in question about $2. But I’m still a human being and I’ll tell you my first gut instinct was ‘They spent my entire first month’s gift on this stupid pack and I don’t really feel thanked at all’.

It didn’t matter that the stuff in it was nice or how much I care about the cause. What hit me was the perceived value. Donors don’t know how much it cost but they will take a guess based on what they feel these things are worth. They aren’t taking the economies of scale into account because they only see one pack in front of them.

For acquisition, this perceived value can actually make them more likely to give a gift or to increase their gift amount. Some people (and fundraisers) dislike premium acquisition because of this high-perceived value, but it works. We see that time and time again with our clients. But to say thank you? We’re not trying to get a response. We’re just trying to make the donor feel fantastic. And I don’t think this is the best way to do it.

You’ll get complaints. But do almost anything in fundraising and you’ll get complaints, so that’s not what bothers me. Most people will shrug it off and keep going with their giving if the cause means enough to them. I’m certainly not going to cancel.

What concerns me is that this welcome pack did not accomplish what the charity should have been trying to do. I don’t feel personally appreciated; I don’t feel like I’ve made an impact right away; I don’t feel any closer to the organisation and I certainly don’t feel surprised or delighted.

What if, instead of this pack of ‘stuff’, I was sent a hand-stamped, hand-addressed envelope that looked like it could have been from my grandfather? And inside was a personal, heartfelt letter that told me a story about the difference my gifts were going to make because of the decision I’d made to give.

For new donors, who’ve made a cash gift to a cold appeal, remind them of the story that moved them to send their gift in the first place and share a happy update from the case study. If you’re going to put anything besides the letter in your envelope make it a beautiful photo of the beneficiary’s smiling face. Reaffirm those feelings that inspired your new donor to join you.

And for new donors like me, who made an unsolicited gift, do the same but share an incredible story of one beneficiary that they haven’t heard before. Make them feel that they’ve made the best decision in the world by giving to your charity.

I gave online, which also gives extra clues as to how responsive I’ll be through the mail (not very). But that doesn’t mean I don’t love getting something in the post. Who doesn’t? These thank-you and welcome touch points can be a wonderful way to show your donor some unexpected love and start building their loyalty. So make them really count.

It’s not rocket science – it’s storytelling

It works in appeals, it works in video, it works in acquisition, it works on the street, it just works. And that certainly includes the welcome process.

So please, show your new donor the love.

And then spend your energy motivating them to give again. The sooner you get that second gift the right way – with another moving story – the closer you are to having a donor for life.


About the author: Margaux Smith

Margaux Smith currently lives in Sydney, Australia, working closely with incredible clients at Flat Earth Direct, creating digital and direct mail campaigns with them to help change the world. This Canadian fundraiser misses her compatriots in London and Toronto, where she learned almost everything she knows, but is enjoying the Australian sunshine a little too much to leave any time soon.

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