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April 16, 2008 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Do you donate more than $100 annually online to a charity? What motivates you to give so much and were incentives involved in the process?

Would you like it if a non-profit sent you a magnet and a bumper sticker as a way of saying thanks; or promised that as an electronic donor you would never receive a paper donor mailing?

Basically, if you donated $100 or more online, did you need an incentive gift as motivation or or did you receive a single message or group of messages that drove you to give that much?
posted by parmanparman to Grab Bag (46 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I gave that much because I wanted to give that much. Receiving an sort of incentive besides updates on how my money was being used and how it was bettering other people's lives is all the "motivation" that I need.

But I like the idea of never receiving a paper donor mailing. Throw in a we'll-never-beg-via-email and that might be pretty sweet.
posted by Stynxno at 1:51 PM on April 16, 2008

Towards the end of each fiscal year I decide how much I can give that year, and then divide that amount between the charities I like. Swag doesn't enter much into it, and frankly I tend to choose charities that don't waste their money on such things; low administrative overhead is a big selling point for me. The last thing I'd like my money to be doing is going to bumper-stickers for other donors.
posted by ChasFile at 1:52 PM on April 16, 2008

I contribute yearly to NPR, and I always opt-out of receiving any sort of gifts. I know that a lot of gifts are donated from sponsors, but it just feels weird to get a gift from a service that I already benefit from? Certainly, a promise to never receive a paper mailing--or phone call--would be a good incentive. I don't mind getting emails, but having the option to opt-in to a preferred communication (or none at all) might remove a barrier to donation for others.
posted by txsebastien at 1:53 PM on April 16, 2008

I don't donate online but we have United Way and also the United Performing Arts Fund at work. Both of which I donate to because there are good charities that I'd like to help. I don't donate to charities I am not familiar with. Incentives don't matter and I would feel that my money went to a better cause if they didn't offer incentives.
posted by JJ86 at 1:58 PM on April 16, 2008

I donate ~$400/yr online, divided among 4 groups.

I don't do it for the swag, but I do enjoy any stickers that come my way. Anything else is a waste.
posted by unixrat at 2:00 PM on April 16, 2008

I dislike it when the charities I donate to send me stuff. Oxfam is very bad for that: I want the money I give to achieve something useful, not send me crappy wristbands and endless junk leaflets.

Regarding motivation: I don't think $100 is that much. I'm not a muslim but one of the requirements they have is to give an absolute minimum of one fortieth (2.5%) of their income to the poor. That fraction seemed pretty reasonable to me so I aim for it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:02 PM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I give because I want to, and honestly, because sometimes I feel guilty about how good I have it compared to most of the rest of the world.

But I like the idea of never receiving a paper donor mailing.
Seconding this. The one thing I would like is just once to get a simple letter of "thank you for your support" that didn't start the next paragraph with "now how about giving some more???"

Pretty much every charity does this, and it's incredibly obnoxious.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:02 PM on April 16, 2008

But I like the idea of never receiving a paper donor mailing.

God, yeah. I spend more time on the phone asking to be removed from mailing lists. Places that automatically put me back on the mailing list after every donation (despite the fact that I do request in writing, on the hardcopy donation slip or in an online comment box, to "Please do not add me to your mailing list") get crossed off my list. I happily donate to places with a written privacy policy that ensures a minimum of my time spent getting myself off of their, or other organizations', mailing lists

I don't need more magnets (which are inevitably too weak to hold much of anything), bumper stickers, or anything else freebie'd or logo'd that's just going to get thrown out when I move.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:10 PM on April 16, 2008

I have generaly given around 4% of my gross income to various organizations. I dislike getting anything in return, although I've been involved on boards and committees of the organizations I give to, where some degree of donor recognition, like a dinner or reception, is part of the routine.

I'd accept and display a bumper magnet or the like as a way of promoting the organization, rather than as a thank you gift.

What motivates me to give at all, or to increase a gift, is to get excellent communication from the organization telling me what they are doing. I don't mind if sometimes that means they call me or solicit me in person -- it's really the best way for charities to get larger gifts.
posted by beagle at 2:11 PM on April 16, 2008

I do donate more than that annually to several charities that accept online donations. Incentives are not/were not involved. The incentive of helping others was all I needed. I do receive a paper letter from both charities acknowledging my gift (and asking for more). It would be nice - if as an online donor I would receive said acknowledgment via email in PDF form. As it stands now I have to scan in the acknowledgments.
posted by jaythebull at 2:11 PM on April 16, 2008

Yeah, I hate getting the mailings too. I give money when I am both really touched and feel the need to do something, and when I am convinced that my money will make a difference.

Also my Christian Children's Fund baby is the cutest one EVER. Seriously: in y'alls' faces.
posted by 1 at 2:12 PM on April 16, 2008

Like others have said, I donate because I want to help, and can afford to do so. I don't care about swag -- as far as I'm concerned, it's just clutter and a waste of funds.
posted by scody at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2008

I give $100 a year to the ACLU and EFF ($200 total). They're about the only political watchdog groups that I see really doing anything. I don't get anything from ACLU, I got a hat from EFF, the first year but I opted out this year. I'd really rather they never sent me anything in the mail, unfortunately the ACLU has a newsletter.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2008

Best answer: I would be thrilled if a non-profit promised that I wouldn't get paper mailings (from them or from other organizations that they sell my contact info). It would definitely motivate me to donate more money to that group, if I had already planned to donate to them in the first place.

I would be okay with a sufficiently cool magnet and/or bumper sticker. It's a nice change from letters asking for money. I got a magnet and bumper sticker from one charity I give to and while I didn't use them, I appreciated it; the same went for a really nice Christmas card from another group.

Usually the thing that motivates me to give, though, is press regarding an issue the charity works on or exposure to their work. (The "exposure" can be as simple as listening to a particularly good piece on NPR or getting one of those "the donor has made a repayment" emails from Kiva.) I have only once ever given in response to a paper mailing.
posted by phoenixy at 2:15 PM on April 16, 2008

I only give online to organizations that I already know and like; swag would be no motivation for me at all. I DO like assurances about the security of the online transaction. I'd be happy if they never sent me another piece of paper. The "message" that I need to receive is that they do good, effective work, and I generally make that judgment for myself.

I tend not to give to organizations that mail me a lot of crap unbidden. I think MSF/DWB does amazing work, but I'd like them even more if they'd stop sending me maps of the world. I am also unlikely to give to places with high development costs, and flashy mailers scream expensive to me.

Caveat: I work/have worked in the development field, so am an obnoxiously picky donor. I'd rather look at your 990s than hear testimonials from all your grateful clients.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:16 PM on April 16, 2008

I give in the hopes that I'll never need to be on the other end of a charitable contribution!!

I can't ever remember being enticed by any giveaway and I usually find myself wondering "why doesn't who ever is giving the coffee mugs or whatever other landfill foder just donate the money it would cost to produce, ship and recycle these instead".

I'll take a paper mailing ANYDAY over a phone or email solicition anyday
posted by Mr_Chips at 2:17 PM on April 16, 2008

Before I started making a living, when I was still in university, I looked at my situation and considered I've been incredibly lucky in life (compared to 99% of the population on Earth, I mean : I never won any lottery or anything like this), so I decided to give 1% of what I make in return to charities at the end of each fiscal year. I'd say I select the charities based on my mood and do not expect anything in return (except maybe the sake of my soul...). Once I was extremely upset because the WWF sent me thank you messages and further request by mail, wasting paper and such, which I consider is really inconsistent with their mission, so I called them and asked to be removed from their distribution list.

I understand the idea behind charities providing incentives to their donors, but I think they should be selected for their actions (and more importantly, their results) rather than their "welcome present", just for the same reason as I won't buy a cay because the dealer gave me a nice key ring.
posted by V-Turn at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2008

I agree with Beagle that generally any sort of gift with donation is best positioned as a way to spread a message that the giver believes in.
posted by snofoam at 2:19 PM on April 16, 2008

Best answer: @Mr_Chips and V-Turn:

I used to work for a membership based charity, and the reason many places do paper mailings is that many (large) donors are really not that technologically savvy, nor do they like electronic mailings. The return is still greater than the cost.

Direct mail can be one of the largest costs for a membership based group, so it's in their interest to do electronic mailings (which are still not cheap, but more so than paper mailings)
posted by waylaid at 2:29 PM on April 16, 2008

I have a slightly odd donation pattern - I don't figure out my donations ahead of time, but when I have money that I know I won't need, I check my donation history and choose based on who I've neglected / what's outraging me recently.

So: for traditional charities, having incentives can be nice, but I'm not for it. No real desire to parade my affiliations, no bumper to stick things to, and like many posters above, I want my money to be defending my rights / building wells / blah blah.

however. In the past two weeks I've given money to two sort-of charities. One is Weber vs. Fermilab, and the other is a fundraiser for Merrily Melson - in this second one, a web-game that I play had a fund-raiser / contest for her. I wouldn't have given as much money if it hadn't been for the contest. I've heard the same a few times.

For the tl;dr: "no mailing" is awesome, smaller charities can give things, larger ones nothing.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:37 PM on April 16, 2008

I donate to International Justice Mission (a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.)

They've once sent me a little booklet for a CD that I could download if I wanted to. Thought that was neat, never downloaded it though.

What I DO appreciate is the monthly letters I get, which update me on the Mission, and sometimes includes success stories and whatnot. It's really nice to hear about what they're doing, which is a great reminded to me why I donate.
posted by toekneebullard at 2:46 PM on April 16, 2008

In the United States if you contribute more than $250 to a charity the IRS expects you to have a piece of paper stating that you received no goods or services from the charity (assuming you use the contribution as a tax deduction). That's all I ever expect. It has never been a motivating factor for me one way or another but in fact it is nice to receive a written receipt, something on paper, even for smaller contributions, just to keep with my tax documents. Souvenirs and stickers and stuff, not so much.
posted by thomas144 at 2:56 PM on April 16, 2008

If by online, you mean automatic withdrawal from my bank account, I give about $100 yearly to each of two nonprofits, plus another $50 or so to NPR. I don't push a button to make it happen, it just comes out automatically.

Reading these responses, I'm learning I'm not alone in my lack of interest in newsletters. They go right in the recycling, I don't think I've ever read one, not even the local NPR station's weekly calendar. I don't put their stickers on my car either.

Really, I'm not sure what my motivation was at first, I just decided to do it one year, and have agreed to re-up each year subsequent.

With regard to NPR, though, I've been considering dropping them, because I don't care much for my local station, and I detest their hostage-taking during pledge week.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:18 PM on April 16, 2008

The places I've donated more than $100 to - I've donated smaller amounts more than once towards specific campaigns or they had a specific goal they needed to reach (a $800 school bus rental for a field trip, etc.)

I don't want shwag - although I would feel good about buying shwag in addition to my donation if I knew the profit from the items went to the organization. I think the Creative Commons shirt is cool. Cool enough to buy. If it came for free, I would expect it to be cheaply made.

The only exception to that is something that's educational about the mission of the organization targeted at my kid. Environmental groups, animal welfare, etc. Although she and I would much rather prefer a web game where we save the seals to a stuffed seal any day.
posted by Gucky at 3:33 PM on April 16, 2008

Just another data point - I've donated that much plenty of times to different charities, but always because I went to their site intending to donate that much. I've never intended to donate less but then been swayed to give more by the promise of a gift or anything else. As others have said, I am much less likely to donate if my money is going to be spent on gifts, endless donation-solicitation letters, address labels, or whatever. If I start getting that stuff, I will probably not be donating to that group again.
posted by Stacey at 3:36 PM on April 16, 2008

I donated 1% of my income (more than 100$) to a food bank a few months ago. It seemed like a reasonable amount. They sent me some glossy mailings later, which really annoyed me. I was sort of hoping 100% of their time and money was spent on feeding people, with 0% going to advertising crap. The best way to "thank" me for my donation is to spend it on the cause.
posted by prefpara at 3:37 PM on April 16, 2008

Some charities certainly benifit from giving out bumper stickers and trinkets. Specifically, the police/highway patrol charities. Nothing like donating a few hundred bucks to get a sticker for the back of the car that gets you out of tickets. Ahh corruption.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 3:49 PM on April 16, 2008

Best answer:
Do you donate more than $100 annually online to a charity?
What motivates you to give so much
Want to help. Feels good. Can afford it.
and were incentives involved in the process?
You mean swag? I don't know. I don't pay attention to it. In fact, I would prefer it if it weren't sent to me.
Would you like it if a non-profit sent you a magnet and a bumper sticker as a way of saying thanks;
It certainly wouldn't upset me, and I guess on some level I would appreciate it, but I would prefer they didn't, and I would just wind up throwing it away as soon as I received it anyway.
or promised that as an electronic donor you would never receive a paper donor mailing?
Yes, actually, I would like that very much.
Basically, if you donated $100 or more online, did you need an incentive gift as motivation
or or did you receive a single message or group of messages that drove you to give that much?
posted by Flunkie at 3:54 PM on April 16, 2008

I don't tend to give out huge amounts like $100, simply because I don't have that much. My usual amount is $10, and that goes to people I believe in and support - organizations I've worked with or do things I'm passionate about, people with projects I want to help out, etc.

Sometimes, especially for things that are more personal projects rather than an organizational thing, having gifts does motivate me to give slightly MORE. Not that I wouldn't give anyway, but it could be an impetus. But it's more to help them out, and I don't mind if I eventually never get it (I just realized that I was meant to get a book from a friend who was organizing a book convention, but it's been a year and I don't really care).
posted by divabat at 4:08 PM on April 16, 2008

I donate to public television and public radio. I always decline the gifts they offer for donations. Their solicitation letters do not affect how much I give, either positively or negatively. I donate because I enjoy many of their programs and wish them to continue.

There was something that motivated me to give more than usual one year. A few weeks before their usual pledge drive was scheduled, the PBS station started inserting brief announcements in their usual between-show breaks from someone at the station who basically said, "Our pledge drive is coming up. We know you hate these. If we meet our goal of $X before the scheduled start of the drive, we'll cancel it." (They did, in fact, meet the goal in time and cancel the pledge drive.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:15 PM on April 16, 2008

If I received an unsolicited gift from a charity I had donated to, I would worry about whether the gift affected the tax deductibility of my gift. I know that I can't deduct "donations" that are actually payments for goods or services, and I don't know enough about tax law to know whether or not that gift counts as a good that negates my tax deductibility. I would be annoyed at the charity for making me have to do tax research.
posted by decathecting at 4:22 PM on April 16, 2008

I donate/lend well over $100 a year to Kiva.

Motivation: I own a small business. I want to help other small business owners. I think the main message that got me was that 100% of my money goes to the person I select. Kiva asks for a separate small donation for their overhead, so it's super clear where everything goes.

It's maybe notable that I've listed the Grameen Foundation in my will, but my monthly microlending activity is with Kiva, because of the personal connection I feel with borrowers and the clear separation of overhead from field money.

Swag: I decided at one point that I wanted a Kiva logo bracelet, so I bought one. If instead the bracelet had been included in a "lend $100 now and get a bracelet!" promotion, it would have hurt my perception of Kiva.
posted by PatoPata at 4:38 PM on April 16, 2008

I would feel guilty receiving a magnet and a bumper sticker from any charity I gave money to, especially as my fridge isn't magnetic and I don't have a car. I give through an online portal ( which lets me opt out of having the charity know my name and address.
posted by Gortuk at 4:48 PM on April 16, 2008

I was especially outraged by the actions of a bad man (initials F.P.) and gave a bunch of money to GLAAD. I asked them not to send me any mail, but they sent me a couple of pieces. Fortunately, my donation was large enough that one of the pieces included the business card of some fundraising mucketymuck and it only took one phone call to stop the mail completely.

I also give to Black Box Voting8212;I get emails, which I like, but nothing in the postal mail except for a DVD which I didn't even expect.

Contrast this with Greenpeace, Amnesty, and the like. I gave them each twenty bucks when I was in college and had to move three times to escape the mountains of junk mail (always with a sticker or some crap that made it tough to recycle) from those guys. Never again.

Personally, I donate when I see something on the news that moves me. Never ever ever as a result of an email, direct mail or, worst of all, a phone call. The promise of no mail, ever, would be a great incentive. I don't need tchotchkes, magnets, bumper stickers, address labels, any of that landfill. if I want swag, I'll donate to WFMU. They have the best stuff!
posted by bink at 5:29 PM on April 16, 2008

I donate online, do not desire any extra incentive, and wish it were possible to donate anonymously to any charity. I opt out of everything I can and despise getting anything back from charities I donate to. Each newsletter and bumper sticker I get that I didn't ask for, I feel like it's money wasted that could have gone towards the charity's actual purpose.

I understand it's important, but it makes charities seem like their in the business of securing donations, rather than doing charitable work.
posted by Durhey at 5:45 PM on April 16, 2008

Greenpeace - because it makes me feel better
Amnesty - because torture is wrong
WWF - beacuae their bear adverts make me cry
Longnow - because their seminars are awsome and they give me hope
Wikileaks - because it annoys wrong doers
Electronic Frontiers Foundation - beacue I'm scared we'll loose internet freedom
posted by matholio at 5:56 PM on April 16, 2008

I give modest needs 10$ a month all year, so I guess that's $120 a year.

I do it because I have been in the same situation as many of the recipients of their grants, and I feel like they patch the shitty social support system in this country. They also care a lot about where their money goes. Oh, and send me stories about how it's helped people. I really like that.

They have a matching fund that doubles my money, I like that too.

Schwag would piss me off because I have a small apartment and I want them to use that cash on the people they help.

They don't send mail, never have, I enjoy that--again, small apartment, limited amount of time and space for paper. They didn't put me on any other mailing lists, either, which is a plus.
posted by sondrialiac at 5:58 PM on April 16, 2008

The only big change in fundraising that has changed our giving habits recently is that so many more organizations are making it easy to pay a yearly pledge in either credit card installments or direct bank draft. This has made it much easier for us to give larger gifts and I suppose that makes everyone happy. $40 a month seems so much more attainable than $480, I mean that's almost $500!
posted by advicepig at 8:29 PM on April 16, 2008

i donate 200/month (using an online form to set up the transfer) to two different missionary friends, with the only benefit knowing that I'm helping support people spreading the Gospel. I also send $10/month to my alumni association, but out of that I do get a magazine which is helpful in keeping up with the goings on in Aggieland. I am lucky to have a good amount of disposable income so it really doesn't affect my day to day living.

I do find that if there is a unique station that I stumble online (EFF or Wikipedia) I would drop $50 or so just to help the general goodness in the world. Swag really wouldn't matter (though if anything a t-shirt would be the only thing that I would ever really want, but even that wouldn't do much)
posted by aggienfo at 9:54 PM on April 16, 2008

Any time I've donated, be it on the internet or in meatspace, I've never expected anything in return, just that the money is well spent. If you can show that to be the case, then I'm more likely to support your cause.
posted by furtive at 10:08 PM on April 16, 2008

I donate online about once a month to various causes, sometimes just a little (my ACLU donation is an ongoing monthly withdrawal) sometimes 50-100 dollars at a time if I have it to spare. I really, really don't like to receive "gifts" in return, mostly because I have too much crap as it is, and it has absolutely nothing to do with why I give to a particular organization in the first place. I would appreciate as little paper mailed to me as humanly possible.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:30 PM on April 16, 2008

Incentives play zero role in my giving.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:43 AM on April 17, 2008

I give money to Amnesty (torture is wrong), to Actionaid (because I like the way they try and help people help themselves), RSPB (the UK bird conservation charity - because I like birds), Kiva and some others. I think it's right to give money to causes you believe in if you can afford it.
I did not require any incentive. In fact the stuff I get sent from these organisations (magazines) goes straight into the recycling usually.
posted by jonesor at 12:47 AM on April 17, 2008

I'm on the $12/month train to my local public radio station and also give to another few wildlife protection groups (maybe not $100 to a single one, though, so disregard as needed).

With the wildlife groups, I give based on what I know they do or have done. I follow the general topic, and my decision to go online and send money happens when I hear that Group X did Action Y or is now doing Action Z. I don't care about the disposable schwag. They could get me to buy any schwag with their name on it that I actually wanted, and anything I don't want, I'd rather be able to opt out of getting. I would love to know a group wouldn't sell my name on mailing lists. I do like getting their newsletters.
posted by salvia at 9:20 AM on April 17, 2008

Best answer: I would like it if the charities I gave to would agree to send me one (annual) reminder. Instead of filling my inbox, or sending junk mail. That would impress me. And maybe make me give a little more (if they kept their word).

In fact, I've sent out a couple letters to charities telling them, "I send you money every year. Stop sending me monthly 'reminders' - or I won't give any more." That stemmed the tide a bit.

The swag (wristbands, pins, etc.) doesn't bug me too much. They're cheap as dirt, and help spread the word.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:40 AM on April 17, 2008

I contribute annually to my local NPR station, Planned Parenthood, Spay/Neuter campaigns, the WWF and TNC.

*NPR because they guilt me into it. I do, indeed, listen every day and even with the modest size of my contribution, I'm still paying like a couple of pennies for the content I hear hourly. Also because I like to remind them financially what I like and dislike about NPR. My annual contribution comes with a list of congratulations and my continuing complaints (I hate how casual public radio is getting, using slang in stories to appeal to my generation. hate it)

I don't take any of their crap unless it is very cool crap, because it takes away from the effectiveness of my contribution.

*Planned parenthood because they, too, are very effective at the guilt trip. I read the blog written by their workers and the videos reduce me to tears.

*Spay/neuter because I care about native songbirds (decimated by the feral cat populations) and I think we as humans are responsible for caring for animals dependent on us and ensuring that our animals cannot reproduce without a really good reason. Seeing dying animals in the developing world is horrific; knowing that the local authories (e.g. Guatemala) often curb the population by throwing out poisoned meat is terrible for me.

*WWF because the pandas are really freaking cute. And so are the Siberian Tigers, which are super endangered. And 'cause it's the right thing to do.

*TNC because I used to work for them and they really stretch a buck and are really doing their best to save the best, most unique, most diverse places on earth, and because they believe in burning things that need to burn.

Overall, I'm a student but know that in the grand scheme of things I am extraordinarily blessed; too, I feel like we're at a juncture with our planet and feel that it is incumbent on me to do the best I can to help as many at-risk things that I can. I think the earth and animals deserve our protection even more than people because they are truly dependent on us to survive.

In that vein, I contributed to Kucinich, Paul, Clinton, and Obama's campaigns this year, because it was the right thing to do (although right now I'm disenchanted with both C and O, sigh)
posted by arnicae at 11:49 AM on April 17, 2008

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