Donors condemn mail-pack gifts

The majority of donors think that charities put gifts in direct mail to make people feel guilty, research by the Fundraising Standards Board suggests.

More than two-thirds of the 2,000 respondents who took part in the board’s questionnaire think gifts are used to make people feel guilty about getting something for nothing, and 93 per cent think that money spent on gifts might be better spent on the cause.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered, published today by the FRSB, also shows that only 16 per cent of donors think it is acceptable to put gifts in direct mail as an incentive. Most people also say that they would not give a donation to a charity that has sent them a gift.

Stephen Pidgeon, direct mail specialist and chair of the Institute of Fundraising committee that wrote the draft of the institute’s new code of practice on direct mail, said: “I hate to see coins and irrelevant or expensive premiums included in mail packs, though I’m sure they ‘work’.

“The draft code was a compromise between those wanting to outlaw many of the current direct mail techniques and those committed to maintaining the status quo. From my reading of this research, the status quo is now no longer an option.”

The report also finds that the majority of donors want a say over how often charities contact them and will stop giving to charities that don’t respect their wishes. About 88 per cent of respondents say they would stop giving if a charity kept contacting them after being asked not to, and 77 per cent say they want some say in how often charities contact them.

Further findings show the content of direct mail is important: 69 per cent of respondents say it is unacceptable for charities to exaggerate to encouraging giving, but 73 per cent think it is acceptable for charities to use distressing and shocking images in their direct mail packs.

The board worked with eight charity members, which each sent questionnaires to 600 of their donors. The research compiled the responses with findings from nfpSynergy’s charity awareness monitor, which analysed online questionnaires from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 16 and over from mainland Britain between 31 July and 6 August 2007.

The findings will feed into the Institute of Fundraising’s consultation on its new code of practice on direct mail.

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