July 11, 2018

Wise Giving Wednesday: Coins in Fundraising Letters

One of the challenges for charities that use direct mail fundraising is to get the recipient to open the envelope. Whether a potential donor gets a large volume of direct mail or just a trickle, a charity has no chance of receiving a donation if the appeal is ignored. One attention-getting technique that has been around for a number of years is attaching a coin to the fundraising letter that can be seen through a window on the envelope. It catches donors’ eyes and makes them wonder: why are they doing this?  These mailings often explain how even small amounts of money – just a few cents per day - can make a difference in achieving the organization’s stated mission and ask donors to consider adding the coin’s face value to the amount they decide to donate.

Donors tell us they are put off by the use of coins in fundraising letters and complain about this practice as a perceived waste of the charity’s money. Donors recognize that charities usually send out a large volume of these types of appeals. Attaching a coin can add up to significant sums of money. While it could be argued that a penny or nickel has low value, the letter may claim otherwise as it seeks to encourage the recipient to make a gift.

Recently, we are seeing direct mail appeals attaching coins with larger values, such as a half-dollar. Charities that do this are taking a significant risk since donors can easily imagine 50 cents adding up to dollars very quickly. In addition, such larger coin amounts have the potential to place pressure on donors to return the money, especially if the direct mail appeal adds the coin’s value to the suggested donation levels.

Of course, as with all fundraising, we encourage donors to look beyond the marketing approach and find out more about the charity before making a gift. Visit Give.org to see if the charity meets the 20 BBB Charity Standards for Charity Accountability.

While some charities may justify this practice based on the appeal’s response rate, we hope they consider coin attachments very carefully, as they might just as easily raise eyebrows as well as funds and could result in losing more donors than they gain.


Video of the Week 

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video that features an interview with Jaime Berman Matyas, President and Chief Executive Officer, Student Conservation Association, (a BBB Accredited Charity). They have been involved in building the next generation of conservation leaders and encouraging environmental stewardship since 1957.   


Recent Reports 

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are  interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.   

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance