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Incentums Today: 4 Tips

By Graham Ruffels

As a fundraising advocate and proponent of effective marketing, I have a passion for premiums and incentive-based programs.  “Incentums”, if you will, continue to be an effective way to increase targeted fundraising response rates, particularly in today’s marketplace.

Two primary models exist: Up-front and back-end.  With a great deal of attention over the past 15 years to the “freemium” model, a shift has been moving towards establishing less costly, equally potent techniques for placing emphasis on back-end for obvious cash-flow and liability reasons.

Regardless of your preferred method, here are 4 recommendations if you’re considering adding this enhancer to your direct marketing plan:

  • Choose items that people want.  While the item should be “in-line” with the mission of the organization, success will be better recognized when the organization has been adept at locating the item the audience really desires.
  • Sell the message, not the item.  Sounds contrary to tip #1, but there is quite a difference.  Donors/buyers want a tangible return for their money, however, the reason someone will give money is because of what they are supporting.
  • Choose an item(s) with a high perceived value.  In some instances that may be wearables, desk supplies, etc, but may also roll into forms of travel incentives and gas/food rebate programs depending on the focus of the campaign (and the level of the intended audience).
  • Test, Test, Test and Test some more.  This technique does not work for all audiences the same way.  Take advantage of some back-end models that only charge for the exact number of items ordered.  That way, there are no financial pitfalls in the process.


Graham Ruffels is the President of Victory DM and current President of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington. Contact Graham at, or 215-272-5600.