To Premium or Not to Premium: Part II

Concord Direct

This is Part II in a three-part series on premium mailings versus non-premium mailings. In Part I, we reviewed the pros and cons of premium mailings. Here, we dig deeper on the benefits of non­-premium mailings.

Was it Shakespeare’s Hamlet who once said, “To premium or not to premium? That is the question”?

Maybe those weren’t his exact words, but sooner or later, every fundraising department will face that very question.

While premium mailings have their benefits, they may not work for every organization. For those that choose to avoid premiums all together, there are other ways to effectively run a direct mail campaign.

For example, an organization may choose a messaging-only approach to fundraising and rely entirely on its cause to motivate people to send donations. Or they may use other tactics to pique recipients’ curiosity: modifying the outer envelope (using a closed-face envelope instead of a window envelope, affixing stamps instead of using indicia, etc.) Inside the envelope, marketers can also use powerful imagery within the letter, tell an emotional story, or leverage involvement devices such as buck slips and lift notes.

But before choosing the non-premium route, consider these pros and cons:

Non-premium mailings: the pros

They cost less. Non-premium packages are cheaper to produce, coordinate, and mail. All these cost savings mean that packages don’t have to work as hard to achieve a similar ROI.

They create a deeper bond with donors. Long-term, the donors that write the biggest checks are the ones who believe in and want to support the mission – not because of a physical gift.

Non-premium mailings: the cons

They earn lower response rates. Without an incentive to act, most prospects will simply overlook your mailing. And that’s not an offense to the organization – it’s just human nature.

They are harder to effectively execute. Most nonprofits have a hurdle to clear in that they need to introduce their organization and their cause, articulate the value they add, and motivate a person to give—all without losing the reader’s attention or coming across as needy.

As we wrote in Part I, all of these pros and cons should be taken into careful consideration (and tested!) before making a decision. What works for Organization A may not work for Organization B, and vice versa.

For more, download our whitepaper To Premium or not to Premium today. In Part III of this series, we’ll explore a hybrid approach to mailings.


Ali Bessette

Cindy Kilgore

Steve Rudman