Donation Premiums

Dear Kim:

We are a small publishing company that produces beautiful books-almost works of art. We are wondering if nonprofits would be interested in buying these as premiums for their donors, as thank you gifts, or as some other kind of incentive. If yes, what might they be willing to pay? We could sell the books for as little as $4.50 each. We want to get our books out and be of service to the nonprofit community. Any help you can give will be appreciated.

~Gifts that keep on giving

Dear Keeping on:

I can imagine that some nonprofits would love to have a beautiful book as a premium for their donors and the price you quote is quite fair. What they may want, however, is a book that is somehow related to their own mission. For example, a library might decide to offer a book as a premium for a gift of $250 and up if the cover was a lithograph of that library or the book contained drawings, pictures or history of the library. If there is some way you can personalize these books, you will have better success. Your local community radio or TV station might use them also, partly to support a local publisher.

Having said that, I should warn you that you will run into several problems:

  1. many organizations have moved away from using premiums because it wasn’t clear that the donors really responded to them (see Penelope Burke’s research in her book, “Donor Centered Fundraising”),
  2. they add a layer of work onto the already usually overburdened development staff,
  3. they add an expense to the fundraising bottom line in an era where everyone has to be more careful about how they spend money.
  4. the IRS has gotten more strict about what can be used as a tax deduction in order to prevent people from buying things and then claiming a charitable donation. So, if I give $250 to an organization and get a book back that is worth $25, my donation is reduced by that amount. The only exception is where the item does not have market value. Your books obviously have market value. Telling donors what their donation is if they want the premium and what it is if they do not is an effort that many groups have decided is not worth it, especially as it is sometimes hard to value these premiums.

I might be more inclined to see if a business would use your books as rewards to customers, and use part of your profits to help fund organizations you like.

If readers have other suggestions, please chime in!

~Kim Klein