What happens when you send a check to your donors?

Unclemaynardttdmk

The Trove has seen a minor surge lately in mailings that include checks. Real, cashable checks you can take to the bank. They’re for small amounts — usually around $2.

When you see a tactic show up repeatedly, that’s a sign it’s working.

Why would a charity send out checks? To get attention. Attention is one of the most important — and probably most difficult — elements of successful fundraising. The quest for attention drives some fundraisers to send cash. The advantage of checks is you only have to pay for those that are cashed. And I’ll guess that’s a small percentage.

Here are a few recent fundraising checks, along with how they explain themselves:

Checkscoalitiontosalue2

Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes. Check amount: $2.25. Explanation:

“I hadn’t heard from you in awhile so I sent you this check to grab your attention — and ask for your help!”

As you’ll see, most of these check mailings come right out and explain themselves this way. I’m sending this check to get your attention.




Checkchristianappalachian

Christian Appalachian Project. Check amount: $2. Explanation:

You can cash it if you’d like. But, I really hope you won’t. Quite honestly, I sent the check to get your attention. I needed this letter to stand out among the many others your receive.




Checkshelphospitalizedvets
Help Hospitalized Vets. Check amount: $2.50. Explanation:

I sent you this special check to make a point on behalf of the American heroes who fought on the front lines….




This one gives a different reason:

Checkshelpourwounded

Help Our Wounded. Check amount: $2. Explanation:

I’ve sent you a $2 check with this letter. That’s what a soldier in Afghanistan pays for just 46 seconds of phone time!

This one claims a logical reason for sending the $2 check. To me, the logic feels better — but I’d bet an espresso or two that it works because it gets attention, not because of some tenuous connection with the offer.




There’s another type of check that’s also effective, but a lot easier to do. Like this one:

Checkscoalitiontosalute

Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes

This is not a real check. If you took it to the bank, they’d laugh at you. It’s merely a facsimile of a check that “dramatizes the impact of matching funds on the donor’s gift: She sends her check, along with this one, to double the amount that goes to the cause.

You might think this a confusing substitute for a more standard reply device. It’s not, apparently. I’ve seen it work wonders, time and again. Donors love to give in ways that increases their giving, and this is a great way to get them in on the action.

More from the Trove


Comments

8 responses to “What happens when you send a check to your donors?”

  1. Jeff – I’m not an annual fund guy, I’m an IT guy who spends a lot of time helping annual fund guys segment, test and analyze so they can do their jobs better.
    I enjoy learning from you through your blog and podcasts. I’ve pointed clients and friends at some of your pieces, since you are great at explaining and illustrating elements of effective direct marketing fundraising, but these sorts of tactics make me so sad. I understand the need to get attention for your ask when so many others are competing for that same attention. But, I can’t help but feel that dealing with your donors authentically and with more respect is a better way to win donors hearts and minds and acquire donors you might be able to keep and upgrade overtime. At least the checks are just a piece of paper, unless it is cashed, so it doesn’t add significantly to the cost of a mailing. But, every time I see a charity send a dime or a dollar, it makes me angry at that charity.

  2. Jeff – I’m not an annual fund guy, I’m an IT guy who spends a lot of time helping annual fund guys segment, test and analyze so they can do their jobs better.
    I enjoy learning from you through your blog and podcasts. I’ve pointed clients and friends at some of your pieces, since you are great at explaining and illustrating elements of effective direct marketing fundraising, but these sorts of tactics make me so sad. I understand the need to get attention for your ask when so many others are competing for that same attention. But, I can’t help but feel that dealing with your donors authentically and with more respect is a better way to win donors hearts and minds and acquire donors you might be able to keep and upgrade overtime. At least the checks are just a piece of paper, unless it is cashed, so it doesn’t add significantly to the cost of a mailing. But, every time I see a charity send a dime or a dollar, it makes me angry at that charity.

  3. Rachel Ciprotti Avatar
    Rachel Ciprotti

    I would not recommend copying such tactics. These charities sound like disreputable ones to me. Sure enough, the first one I checked on Charity Navigator is being sued by the State of California for mismanagement of funds and excessive executive pay.
    These charities are blindly mailing thousands of people in the hopes that some of them will respond without checking up. It is not a way to responsibly fundraise for a sustainable organization. You need to build real relationships based on trust with donors.
    The so-called “Nigerian” scam emails also ‘work’ in the sense that they bring in money, but no one should copy those tactics either.

  4. Rachel Ciprotti Avatar
    Rachel Ciprotti

    I would not recommend copying such tactics. These charities sound like disreputable ones to me. Sure enough, the first one I checked on Charity Navigator is being sued by the State of California for mismanagement of funds and excessive executive pay.
    These charities are blindly mailing thousands of people in the hopes that some of them will respond without checking up. It is not a way to responsibly fundraise for a sustainable organization. You need to build real relationships based on trust with donors.
    The so-called “Nigerian” scam emails also ‘work’ in the sense that they bring in money, but no one should copy those tactics either.

  5. There’s nothing shady or underhanded about the tactic of sending checks, even if an organization doing it is in legal trouble. Comparing the tactic to Nigerian scams is completely specious. The Nigerian emails are fraudulent at every level. The checks are a neutral tactic; they could be used in a fraudulent OR an honest enterprise.
    The most likely downside to the check tactic is that it brings in large numbers of low-dollar, low-retention donors, and that the organization is on a high-volume, high-turnover treadmill that makes revenue at a poor ROI. That may or may not be happening; we don’t know that.
    It’s important for fundraisers to be able to separate the world as it is from the world as we think it ought to be. Your instinct that the check tactic is disrespectful or unsustainable is a belief, not a fact.
    A lot of fundraisers persist in doing dumb, unsustainable, anti-donor fundraising. That may include one or more of the organizations above. But the tactic they’re employing doesn’t tell us that.

  6. There’s nothing shady or underhanded about the tactic of sending checks, even if an organization doing it is in legal trouble. Comparing the tactic to Nigerian scams is completely specious. The Nigerian emails are fraudulent at every level. The checks are a neutral tactic; they could be used in a fraudulent OR an honest enterprise.
    The most likely downside to the check tactic is that it brings in large numbers of low-dollar, low-retention donors, and that the organization is on a high-volume, high-turnover treadmill that makes revenue at a poor ROI. That may or may not be happening; we don’t know that.
    It’s important for fundraisers to be able to separate the world as it is from the world as we think it ought to be. Your instinct that the check tactic is disrespectful or unsustainable is a belief, not a fact.
    A lot of fundraisers persist in doing dumb, unsustainable, anti-donor fundraising. That may include one or more of the organizations above. But the tactic they’re employing doesn’t tell us that.

  7. I agree that when you want to earn funds for a cause, you need to catch the attention of many people and one of the most effective ways is to send this kind of check. Nice article!

  8. I agree that when you want to earn funds for a cause, you need to catch the attention of many people and one of the most effective ways is to send this kind of check. Nice article!

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog