Why Did a Charity Send Me Money in a Donation Solicitation?
Here are a few answers to common questions that can help you understand why some nonprofits do this and what it means for you as a donor.
It's a counterintuitive situation: you received a letter from a charity asking for a donation, and it also includes coins or a small gift for you, the potential donor. Why do they do this? Why did they spend money to send you money instead of using it to support their work? You may find this tactic confusing or even offputting. Let's break it down.
Why Do Some Charities Send Money in Donation Solicitation Letters?
This is a fundraising tactic. Charities have gotten creative over the years to attract attention to gain and retain donors. You are probably familiar with fundraising tactics, from phone calls and emails to advertising and events. These tactics, and others, are used by nonprofits to attract supporters whose generosity will facilitate their important work. Time after time, they are used because they are highly likely to work on the right audience – even if you are not personally moved.
Isn’t This Tactic a Waste of Money?
It may seem strange to send a dime or a small gift to a potential donor. If you are a stickler about overhead, this may even count against an organization in your mind. You should keep two things in mind: first, fundraising is essential to a charity’s viability strategy, and second, all fundraising efforts cost money. The dime taped into a note is a clear expense that you as a donor can immediately put a dollar value on, but let's break down some of the other, less obvious, costs that went into that solicitation letter.
Someone decided on the tactic of sending the letter,
someone wrote the copy for the letter, and
the paper, printing, stuffing, and mailing all have associated costs.
Even if some of this work is done by volunteers or uses donated materials, implementing this tactic is an opportunity cost. Simply put, a dime is a nominal cost compared to the other components of that same mailer, let alone other fundraising tactics.
Should I Donate to Organizations That Use This Tactic?
As previously established, sending donors money is a legitimate fundraising tactic that organizations may employ as a part of a campaign to support their work. Treat this solicitation like any other. If you are not interested in supporting the organization, there is no need to take action around the money or gift they sent you. You do not owe anything to the organization. If you want to avoid getting this type of solicitation in the future, take steps to remove yourself from mailing lists. This will reduce the number of unwanted solicitations you receive and help charities focus their fundraising efforts on those who may be more responsive.
If you are interested in supporting the charity, take a moment to vet the charity. First, use Charity Navigator’s search tool to assess the organization. Then, consider your own charitable giving strategy. How does this donation fit in? How much can you give? Does it make sense to give to this organization on a recurring basis? You may want to use the included return envelope to make your gift. Still, your donation does just as much good if you make it online through the organization’s website or the Charity Navigator Giving Basket.
Like all donation solicitations, mailers containing coins or gifts are an invitation to support a cause. It is up to you to decide how to respond.