Meaning Behind Sending Small Gifts

Dear Kim:

Now and then our organization receives a gift in the mail for $1 or $2 dollars — usually cash, usually in response to one of our larger prospect mailings to lists of names that we have purchased or traded. In the past we have just gone ahead and added these folks to our membership and newsletter lists, sent them a thank you and hoped that in the future they might be able to contribute more. But this year, we received five or six of these gifts all at once and we wondered if this isn’t some “strategy” among recipients of “junk mail” to drain resources of the organizations sending the mailings. Should we instead just send a simple thank you (already spending all of their donation for postage and the cost of the stationery) and be done with it? Or should we continue our more generous practice of adding them to our mailing list?

FYI: Our basic membership rate is $35, our limited income rate is $20, but our practice as been to accept whatever a person is able to contribute.

~Wanting to be Inclusive


Dear Inclusive:

I have not heard of anyone observing this strategy. Readers: if you have seen organizations starting to get a flurry of very small gifts in response to direct mail, will you let us know?

I would continue your practice of adding these people to your mailing list for a year, then sending a renewal letter, and if they don’t renew, take them off. Your organization is able to afford large direct mailings, so I don’t think four or five really small donors is going to break the bank. If you get 50 such gifts, then you would have to create a policy for dealing them, and then we might think this is some kind of strategy on the part of people who don’t like you. If you are worried about this becoming a trend, you could add a line that says,

“___$15 or more: receives our quarterly newsletter.”

Then you have no obligation to send anyone giving less than that anything but a thank you note.

However, you really don’t know anything about these people and it is always best to act as if people who give you any amount of money are more helpful to you than people who don’t and need to be treated as such.


~Kim Klein